It can be so confusing to sort out all the messages we hear today. In my book Redbud Corner, Ah Ni has trouble separating what she has always been told from actual truth. Most of us can relate to that.
The book of 3 John is a letter and sermon to a friend and his church—a sermon that includes both encouragement and warning. In this epistle, John praises Gaius, whom he calls “beloved,” for supporting those who are spreading the truth of the gospel. At the same time, he warns him of Diotrephes who “likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority,” talks “wicked nonsense against us” and “refuses to welcome the brothers.” But he also puts in a positive word for Demetrius who is delivering the letter and has received a “good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself.”
What I love about John is that he works to simplify things and to make his message clear. To do that, he writes:
“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.” 3 John 11 ESV
He tells Gaius (and us) not to imitate evil but to imitate good. And then he lays down the dividing line: “Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”
John warns Gaius and his church to imitate those like Demetrius and to avoid those like Diotrephes. So what can we take from that?
We all know those who are divisive, rebellious, self-centered, and condemning—even though they claim to represent Christ. John says that person is not from God, no matter what they say. A person’s character validates their message.
“Lord, there are so many voices out there proclaiming they have the inside track of Christian knowledge. Help me to discern truth from lies. Help me to know those who represent you rightly from those who represent you falsely. Teach me your Word, Lord, that I may become discerning and wise. Amen.”