As a child, the church that my family attended had a program on Wednesday nights called JOY Club. The “JOY” in JOY Club was an acronym that stood for “Jesus” first, “Others” second, “You” last. This simple order of the acronym seems basic, yet it is life-transforming when practiced by Christians. For it is when this order of priority is practiced, that true joy results.
In 3 John, the Apostle was writing to a “wellbeloved Gaius” who was commended for walking in the truth. John said that he found “no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (v. 4). Whoever Gaius was, he was an exemplary Christian. At the end of the letter, John also commended a man by the name of Demetrius who had a “good report of all men, and of truth itself” (v. 12). Demetrius’s righteous actions testified of his right relationship with God. These two men clearly had a “Jesus first, others second, me last” attitude. However, in 3 John, there is a third man that is mentioned by the name of Diotrephes. This man flipped the acronym of “JOY” on its head. Rather, than Jesus being first and others being second, Diotrephes had a me-first attitude. Verse 9 says that he “loveth to have the preeminence.” In other words, Diotrephes desired to have first place in the church and to use his authority to injure the church. Diotrephes obviously had an inflated view of himself and this was manifested in his slandering of the Apostle and his fellow workers. Diotrephes had assumed an authority that did not belong to him. “Diotrephes” is not an uncommon type of person and all are prone to become a “Diotrephes” if pride is not kept in check. “Diotrephes” unfortunately exists in every era of time and in many churches.
Every Christian must resist the spirit of “Diotrephes.” We must not allow the hunger for power to creep into our hearts. Rather, we must adopt the mind of Christ which teaches us to be “lowly minded” not “high minded.” We must adopt the mind of Christ which teaches us to “esteem other better than” ourselves. We must adopt the attitude of Christ who “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” We must remember the time that Jesus called the twelve around Himself and said “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mk. 9:35). This is true greatness. True greatness is not found by having a “me-first” attitude. Rather, it is having a “me-last” attitude. True greatness is found in making oneself a servant of all, rather than a lord over all.
May God help us resist the spirit of “Diotrephes” and may we remember the path to true joy is found in putting Jesus first, others second, and self as last and servant of all.