One again we come to the end of John’s letter. There is MUCH more he wants to say but wants it to be face to face.
John was NOT a gossip! He did not disclose in his letters anything that needed to be settled personally. His letters were short and dwelt on the major point John wanted to address. He certainly knew that his letters were being passed around by the churches. So anything of a purely personal nature he wanted to convey face to face.
John had matters to attend to with Diotrephes, but even those matters were going to be done in person. We don’t need to share ALL the details of our interactions with everyone. There is such a thing as “need to know” that applies even in the church. I don’t know if he had corrective matters to discuss with Gaius but we know he did with Diotrephes. But even extra praise made public can become a problem.
Imagine how puffed up a person could get if EVERY good thing they did was broadcast. Jesus knew this could and would be a problem too. That’s why He gave us instructions about giving. “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” Matthew 6:3-4).
On the other side of the coin, imagine the crushing blow that can result when you make ALL the sins public. God forgives when we confess our sins to Him but our own brothers and sisters don’t always operate on that same principal. Part of God’s forgiveness is that He refuses to “remember” our sins. “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). That doesn’t mean He has short term or long term memory loss but that He CHOOSES to forget the instance FOREVER. We, as humans, don’t always choose to adhere to that standard and have been known, on MANY instances, to bring back up a past hurt and use it as a club against the one who had previously asked for forgiveness. One comedian
I listened to calls it “Throw back Thursdays.”
But what about the person who doesn’t ask for forgiveness? Or the one who keeps on hurting us? Shouldn’t we make their behavior known? Jesus addressed that issue too. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17). Notice that Jesus didn’t start with proclaiming the faults of your brother to the world, but saved sharing them with the church as the last resort. He also didn’t say that you had to go into detail and give a full description of every offense to the church.
So I’m thinking that the issue with Diotrephes had reached the point of sharing it with the church. At least the matter of Diotrephes refusing to acknowledge the apostles’ authority and preventing others in the body from demonstrating brotherly love to the traveling ministers. But the rest of the story was being held in reserve for a private discussion. I believe John still held out hope for Diotrephes’ repentance.
John bids a fond farewell to his “son” in the faith and his brother in Christ. “We will talk again soon, in person. Tell everyone I said hi and that I’m thinking of them.” And he leaves them with the best gift he has at the moment; a prayer for God’s peace. I’ll take that gift!
Father God, thank You that You didn’t “air Your dirty laundry” with us, UNLESS it was profitable for our instruction. You shared some pretty sordid and hard stories but they contained lessons we needed to learn for MANY generations. By showing me how You still used some of those flawed people You gave me hope for my own place in Your plan. I thank You for those stories of hope. You also held back in some places. This gives me comfort in knowing that You understand my fragile ego and how disclosing every detail can crush me. You not only hold my tears but You also hold my confidence. Help me do the same.
Last night while talking with my husband I began sharing MORE than what I should have regarding other people. Thank You for calling me on it right in the middle on it. Thank You for Your forgiveness for my behavior. Put a guard on my mouth Lord! Or at least help me put a better one there. More than that though Lord, take those hurts out of my heart and mind forever. Let me forgive as completely as You do; including remembering the sins no more.