Meeting rather than Tweeting – Saturday, 32nd Week in ordinary time – 3 John 5-8 (But I am covering the whole book)

What  a beautiful text this is to end the week. It has much spiritual ‘meat on the bone’ to enjoy. In contrast to Il John, which we studied yesterday, this letter of ‘the elder’ is personal and not an exchange between churches. Its recipient is a man called Gaius which was a rather common name in the Roman world. But as to who this Gaius is specifically, that is unknown; as also in the case of the other names, Diotrephes (verse 9) and Demetrius(verse 12), who are also mentioned in the letter.

2 John and 3 John are both brief letters. When read today, things are not clear and they almost seem to be cryptically written especially when the author speaks of this ‘face to face’ pending visit to Gaius (verse 14). Perhaps there was an important matter to discuss and the author thought it best not to create a ‘WhatsApp or Twitter storm of words.’ Rather than tweeting he recommended meeting. Personal meetings are more effective than thumbing your thoughts and feelings, all in 280 characters.

The elder is writing primarily to express his joy on the verbal character report he has received from some ‘brothers’ (mentioned here as ‘friends’ in the RSV) who though were strangers have been welcomed by Gaius and were floored by his faith and his sound doctrine. He is a man who walks the talk for he is referred to a s a man who ‘walks in the truth’ (verse 3) and practices love.

What ought to get your eye is verse 2. The elder writing to Gaius says “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in GOOD HEALTH, JUST AS IT IS WITH YOUR SOUL. Our daily greeting to just about everyone we meet is, “how are you?” That response is varied and can range from health issues to emotional ones. Imagine hitting someone with this question, “how is your soul today?” Gosh, the Western world will throw a fit with accusations of ‘invasion of privacy’ and dragging morality into the neighbourhood. But what’s so awful about that question to a fellow Christian or even more to immoral politician who seems to want to hit the nuclear button? How is your soul, they need to be asked?

In both letters, the question of Christian hospitality is raised. Yet in fact, the situation indicated in the two letters seems to be reversed. In 2 John, the elder warns the Church
not to give hospitality to deceiving teachers. But in this letter, while the elder’s friends had received hospitality from Gaius, they find themselves rejected and put out of the church by Diotrephes (vs. 9), who is presumably a local church authority.

This brings us to two people now referred to in verse 9-11. We have heard of Diotrephes who may have emerged as a leader of the community. The accusation against him is not that of false teaching but a matter of his refusal to accept the authority of the elder. He has an ‘I’ problem for we are told that he ‘likes to put himself first.’ In his bid to establish his supremacy he has also brought false charges against the elder.

Then there is Demetrius (verse 12) whom everyone has testified in favour of and who seems to have the backing of the elder. Perhaps there was some leadership struggle going on in the community. Interestingly, this letter is attributed to John, the beloved disciple; the advocate of love. Even the advocate of love sometimes has to reprimand errant brothers. This is also loves task as we have heard so often from the lips of Jesus and in the teachings of Paul.


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