3Jn 1:5-10 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, (6) who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. (7) For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. (8) Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (9) 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.
There are MANY lessons to be learned from the Apostle John’s words concerning this evil counterfeit named Diotrephes. Diotrephes is still with us today. He is to be found in many if not most local churches, parading as an eminent Christian. But Christian he is not. He is one of the creeps who creep in among us as Jude warns us about.
Because Diotrephes (ie, the narcissist, the sociopath, the abuser) craves to be “first,” he detests anyone whom he perceives to be competition to his demand for glory and praise. Notice that John points this out. There were some genuine brethren in Christ – perhaps evangelists or teachers – who traveled around preaching the gospel and they relied upon local churches for support. So they would visit and perhaps be provided with food and lodging and even some financial support and would be welcomed to preach and teach in the churches.
Diotrephes hated this. He hated them. And so, wielding his influence and wicked power in the church, he ordered that these servants of Christ not be received. If anyone disagreed with him, he would see to it that they were put out of the church. He ruled by fear.
But John called him out. He wrote this letter to that church and announced that he was coming to visit, and that when he came he was going to publicly confront Diotrephes for his wickedness.
I have seen this very thing numbers of times in our own church and I suspect that you have encountered Diotrephes as well. A new ministry or outreach is begun. A new brother or sister in Christ moves into the area and begins attending the church and over time evidencing gifts the Lord has granted them. The Lord begins blessing these things. What happens? Diotrephes opposes it and insists that such things be stopped. He (or she) sees himself as head of the church and, driven by an extreme sense of entitlement and superiority over all others, he does all he can to stop anything or anyone from “undermining” his position.
THIS is why so many domestic abusers who pretend to be Christians do much of what they do. They usually work to isolate their target victim. An isolated person is easier to control. If some new friendship is budding, it must be stopped. If supportive family and friends are in the area, then the abuser moves the victim far away. Any hint of independence, of being a person, on the part of the victim is regarded as a threat and the evil one moves to squelch it. Power and control are his precious.
We need, as far as can be done safely, to stand up to these Diotrephes types. Certainly they need to be called out and even put out of the church (don’t think they will ever repent. They don’t). As long as Diotrephes is permitted to reign in a church, the Lord will not bless that church. Why would He? Why would He bring people He is drawing to Himself into a place where a wicked one is tyrant?