word for the week – the abuse of authority
For most of us, the name of Diotrephes does not ring many bells. But John, in his third letter, draws a cameo portrait of this church leader, almost as an object lesson in how not to do it.
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church”, 3 John v.9-10.
Diotrephes comes across not as a strong man but as an extremely insecure one. He clearly cannot countenance the possibility of rivalry or challenge to his authority. And so he refuses even to acknowledge John, the elder, who, as the rest of the letter shows, had been closely involved with that church, and had many friends there. To make things worse, he tries to turn others against John by gossiping maliciously about him.
It is not only the older, respected figure, however, who makes Diotrephes feel insecure. Whether he refuses to welcome the brothers because they had come from John is not clear, but he clearly does not want to share the limelight with them. Thus, by this refusal, he was depriving the church of the benefit of their ministry.
He even perceives threats from within the ranks of his own church, requiring absolute loyalty from the members, and excluding anyone who might seem to challenge his authority.
He sounds somewhat like a new Company Director who sidelines and ridicules the retiring Chairman, rejects the contribution of able people who might bring fresh ideas into the company, and sacks those who want to do things differently!
Don’t we all need to examine ourselves, to see whether a desire to be first in any area of our lives prevents us from learning from and working harmoniously with others, and encouraging them to develop their own potential?