3 John 1:8-10 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 he is. Diotrephes. The classic narcissist in Scripture (of course there are many more). The chief problem in dealing with such a person is that we don’t really initially understand what they are. They can be a family member, a fellow church member, a pastor, a spouse – people who we assume love us. And many times they do appear to demonstrate love toward us.
But then there are the warning signs – those troubling things such people do or say which just seem, “off.”
Notice in the Scripture above that Diotrephes had a motive in all that he did – he puts himself first. This is what drives him. It is who he is. He believes that he is:
- A lord to be served
- An authority unto himself
He has no empathy. Love is not present in him. He is jealous of anyone he perceives to be a threat to his position. This is why Diotrephes talked “wicked nonsense” about John and it is why he refused to welcome the Lord’s genuine servants in the church. He even threatened anyone who did, and tossed them out of the church.
I cannot even start to tell you how many of these kind I have come across in the churches I have pastored during my 40 years of ministry. And the chief problem for me has been not understanding what these people really were. I assumed they were Christians (though “difficult” people). I assumed they wanted to serve the Lord, that they had the same purpose as I did in the church, etc. I assumed because I did not understand Diotrephes. I was not wise in respect to this evil.
As a result, I still assumed certain things about them even when they said or did things which produced that unsettled “something isn’t right here” feeling in me. In other words, I covered for them. I made excuses for them to myself and sometimes even to other people.
- Diotrephes is basically a good Christian. He can be difficult at times but….
- He struggles with sin like all of us and sometimes he seems to be prideful
- He had a bad upbringing and so he wrestles with shame
But what was the truth? What is Diotrephes, really? He is:
- A person who demands to be praised and worshipped
- He is a person with NO empathy or love
- He is a person who will tolerate NO perceived threat to his position
- He is a phony. His persona is a false front to dupe people into thinking, “boy! that Diotrephes is the godliest man in the whole church.”
- He is intensely vengeful when anyone shines light upon his real nature
- He covertly communicates to those around him that he will tolerate no dissenting opinion
Only when we understand who Diotrephes really is can we properly deal with him. John knew what he was and he announced to the church that when he arrived he was going to publicly expose this wicked man and you can bet that Diotrephes ultimately left the church, breathing threats and blame, and went right down the road to reboot his “ministry” among others who were naive about his kind.