This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
A “COMIC” GESTURE, THE QUENNELLE IS ANTISEMITIC INSULT
3 John 1-15
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
Gaius Commended for His Hospitality
2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 3 I was overjoyed when some of the friends[a] arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely, how you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends,[b] even though they are strangers to you; 6 they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God; 7 for they began their journey for the sake of Christ,[c] accepting no support from non-believers.[d] 8 Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth.
Diotrephes and Demetrius
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 call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends,[e] and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church.
11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Everyone has testified favourably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him,[f] and you know that our testimony is true.
13 I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; 14 instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.
15 Peace to you. The friends send you their greetings. Greet the friends there, each by name.
There’s something just a little fussy and self-regarding about this letter which is evidence of the kind of quarrel that anyone who has been part of a church or voluntary organisation will recognise. There is an informal distribution of authority which can lead to challenges and demarcation disputes, as is evident in this case. Clearly John the Elder considers that he has oversight of some kind which ought to be recognised by the church to which he has written. He may have been right about Diotrephes-I’ve come across people who like to put themselves first-or he may have been mistaken, as leaders sometimes are. All this is familiar and unremarkable.
But there are remarkable aspects to this passage.
1. Its repeated use of the word “truth”. In Greek this is aletheia or un-concealment. Ultimately the Johannine tradition in the Bible uses this word to indicate the conviction that Jesus is the un-concealment of God. God has not hidden his love but shown it openly in Jesus. It is this very love which is the truth in which Christian communities live; it must never be concealed but made evident in the life of brothers and sisters together.
2. Its recommendation of hospitality. Gaius has proved that he lives in the truth by not hiding from the messengers of the Church but rather giving them hospitality. The refusal of hospitality is described in Isaiah as “hiding from your own flesh”. The believer who gives hospitality opens his himself and house to the “friends” who are doubtless messengers of the church.
3. Its reference to the “good”. In Greek this is agathos, a word used by Plato for the ultimate goal of human existence, which satisfies the human mind and soul; and by Aristotle to describe the supreme power which draws all things towards it. John is very clear in his letters that God may be more than goodness but is certainly never less. The goodness that human beings have valued and defined comes from God and can be used as a test of the sincerity of believers. To the extent that they do evil, their vision of God is defective. This is a distinctive and valuable theology.
I would seem that the ordinary life of this Christian community, while containing some common problems, also contains some precious customs and insights.