By Kevin Rutherford
When John wrote his third epistle he said, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God (3 John 11).” This statement of contrast comes after a discussion of the behavior of two different Christians. The first Christian discussed in 3 John was one who was doing good. John addressed this letter to a fellow Christian by the name of Gaius. John praises Gaius for the good things he is doing for the church, and encourages him to keep doing good. From this very brief look at Gaius we can clearly see that he is a man to be imitated.
The first thing for which Gaius is praised is his walking in the truth (3 John 3). To walk in the truth means to live by the truth. Gaius was one who studied, practiced, and preached the truth. The truth set the course for his life. Having heard from other brethren that Gaius was so devoted to the truth brought great joy to John (3 John 4). The word of God is truth (John 17:17). It is the word of God that must guide our lives, just as it guided the life of Gaius.
The second aspect of his character for which Gaius was praised was his love for the church. Love is an important part of Christianity. Without love for our brethren we cannot please God (1 John 3:15). Gaius was a balanced Christian. He was sound in the faith and loving. Surely here is a man worthy of imitation. Gaius is a man who devoted his life to the truth and yet did so in love. This kind of Christian balance is more rare than it should be. We have many Christians in the church today who will stand firmly for the truth, but do so in a caustic and bitter way. They do not have enough love.
On the other hand there are those Christians speak of love all the time and yet they are ready and willing to compromise the truth for the sake of unscriptural unity. When John taught us to imitate the good, the good man in that context was Gaius. Be balanced like Gaius.
John also said in 3 John 11 “...do not imitate evil…” The example of evil in the context is a man by the name of Diotrephes. Diotrephes was a man who loved “… to have the preeminence… (3 John 9).” This displays a great deal of arrogance on his part. Paul taught us that love is not arrogant (1 Corinthians 13:4). While Gaius was a loving Christian, Diotrephes was a man lacking in love. He wanted to be the one in charge and he wanted all things to go his way. Because of his desire to control the church he would not accept sound brethren such as the apostle John. Perhaps this was because he was afraid the apostle John posed a threat to his power. Power hungry men in the church have caused many problems throughout the centuries.
As John further describes Diotrephes it is mentioned that this man spoke lies about John. He used malicious words in so doing. This is not unusual. When power hungry men see threats to their power they will often lash out in hatefulness. They are doing this in a pathetic attempt to keep their power. Unfortunately, it is sometimes the case that other Christians will believe the cruel lies they tell. Don’t be like this man.
John told us “...do not imitate what is evil, but what is good (3 John 11).” The example of evil in the context is arrogant Diotrephes who loved to have the preeminence. The example of good is Gaius who walked in truth and did so with love. Which example are you following.
- Kevin Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/