August 21st 2010

Imitate Good When Things Are Bad

12th and last in a series based on 3 John

“…Do not imitate what is evil but what is good.”
3 John 11 (NIV)

We all need positive examples to follow, especially when things are bad.

Jesus is, of course, the ultimate example and we should all seek to model our lives on him. When life is tough, however, we also need to see how Jesus is working in the lives of others and to imitate the good we witness. It is to this idea that John turns.

The chief example before the congregation was a bad one. The principal leader, Diotrephes, who appears to have had a strong personality, influenced many of the members in a destructive and negative way. He spoke against John as the church authority, maligned his name, refused to welcome people sent from him, and disfellowshipped any of the members who sided with the apostle and his friends. John explains that the main problem with Diotrephes was that he thought too highly of himself and sought to exalt himself.

What the church needed was an immediate good example because “anyone who does what is good is from God” (v. 11).  There was someone on hand, and his name was Demetrius. John points Gaius and the congregation to him because “Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone–and even of the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true” (v. 12). We don’t know more than what is written here about Demetrius. We can speculate that perhaps he was one of the members who would work quietly behind the scenes, through whom the light of Jesus shone brightly. Maybe he was an elder or a deacon. We just don’t know.

The lesson for us is that when things are seriously dysfunctional, look for a good example and be inspired by that. We also know that good examples are not only for the bad times, they can also spur us on at any point in our lives.

Even though 3 John is only thirteen verses, it is packed with ideas for the modern Christian. It has drama and intrigue and a good ending. John tells Gaius, to whom the letter was addressed, that he is coming soon and will see him, and presumably the congregation, “face to face” (v.13). That would have been an interesting meeting! Don’t you wish it had been recorded somewhere?

Wonderful Father, thank you for the example of Jesus and help me to follow him in everything I do or say. Also, thank you for the inspiring examples of Spirit-led Christians and help me to imitate the good in them when things are bad. In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson

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