August 7th 2010

Gossiping Maliciously

 10th in a series based on 3 John

“So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us.”
3 John 10a (NIV)

If you don’t like the message, discredit the messenger.

Diotrephes, a congregational leader, did not like John’s message. John had preached about how Jesus was the incarnate Son of God, and had sent instructions about providing for missionaries who were to be sent out in Jesus’ name. But Diotrephes would have none of it. John’s words threatened Diotrephes’ leadership position in the church.

So what was Diotrephes to do? His answer had been tried and tested throughout the ages and is still a favourite strategy today. Attack the man. Discredit John as an authority figure so no one would listen to him. Of course, the Pharisees also tried to the do the same with Jesus when they called him a sinner and a drunkard. It is not clear whether Diotrephes and John had ever met, but no matter, stories could be invented. John labels the tales told by Diotrephes as malicious gossip.

Why is this recorded in the Bible? It is certainly a negative reference to church life. It shows us that human nature can still function in a converted environment. Perhaps it is there to alert us, to show us what can happen so we can recognise it should it occur today. Proverbs tells us that “a perverse man stirs up dissension” (16:28), and typically this is done with lies and deception. This appears to be the case with Diotrephes and his example stands as a warning for us. Don’t get involved in listening to or spreading gossip.

Without doubt the church to which John wrote appears to be in turmoil. Diotrephes is in charge and he does more than spread gossip about John, Gaius and the missionaries, as we’ll see next week.

Father, please protect the church from malicious gossip, and help me not to listen to or participate in it. In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson 

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