I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. – 3 John 9-10
Have you ever experienced a tyrant at work, in your family, at school, or even in your church? Today’s term for such a person is “bully.” I’ve been theologically-bullied, and it isn’t fun. Judgmental, holier-than-thou pseudo-authorities tell it like (they think) it is – with little or no room for conversation or discussion. Gaius was such a bully. There was little mercy, gentleness, kindness, or respect in his attitude or approach to members of his own church! Of him, Gill says,
It is very likely he was more than a private member in the church, and that he was an officer, and it may be the pastor; and though there is a preeminence, which of right belongs to such an officer, as to preside over the church, to govern, guide, and direct, according to the laws of Christ, he being set over the church, as a ruler, governor, and guide; yet this may be carried too far, as it was by this man, who coveted more than was his due, and lorded it over God’s heritage, ruled the flock with force and cruelty, and usurped a tyrannical power over them; whereas every thing in a church ought to be done, by pastor and people, in love, meekness, and with mutual consent. And it may be also, that he sought to have the preeminence over the rest of the elders of the church, for in those large churches there were oftentimes more elders and pastors than one…
Boice, speaking of Diotrephes’ desire for preeminence, observes: “This is the original and greatest of all sins. It is the sin of Satan, who was unwilling to be what God had created him to be and who desired rather to be ‘like the Most High’ (Isa. 14:14). It is the opposite of the nature of Christ ‘who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.’”
The clear instruction of Scripture is to correct with gentleness and respect, but there are times when evil must be called what it is. There is a time to prevent others from holding sway in a church. There is a time to call someone out.
It is noteworthy that John takes this action against the one who was not acting in gentleness and respect toward the members of his own church. Jesus said, “Do not cast your pearls before swine.” Some take that as a warning against sharing the gospel with those who are unworthy. How can that be? We’re all unworthy. I take it to mean not to throw a brother (pearl) out of the fellowship – unless he has shown himself to be no longer a brother. Let mercy prevail!