February 1982

Dlotrephes — A Nice Guy

Robert F. Turner

"I met Diotrephes the other day. Do you imagine him dark of visage, loud voiced, arrogant, and mean? Well you are wrong! He is handsome, middle aged, soft spoken, well educated. He knows a lot about most every subject and is especially interesting to talk to. In fact, he is a very nice guy. A lot of the problem is that people just don't understand him — and he has gotten a lot of bad press lately.

"Now I know he is opinionated. I frankly asked him about the church trouble — and I admit he did get a little upset. He is a man of deep conviction; he really believes what he believes. And he is worried about the church. He is afraid the church will really get messed up if he fails to keep a tight rein on things.

"Oh, about John, he and Diotrephes have a real personality clash. He has a thing about John — and maybe he is partly right. He says John is getting old and senile. Besides John is just a little uppity because he was a personal friend of Jesus — at least that is what Diotrephes says. And..." Does this imagined interview sound strangely current? Well, Diotrephes is not dead. I have met him — and I have heard this report from several interviewers who later became his devotees. Several observations might help our evaluations.

First, evil people are not without commendable traits. It would be nice if bad people were entirely bad —and thoroughly unlikable. It just is not that way. Recall lovable but rebellious Absalom (2 Sam. 13:23-)? And look again at Esau — a real man's man, but completely carnal minded (Gen. 25:27). Evil people have some good traits but are in rebellion to truth; good folk have some faults but are trying to overcome and do right.

The objective of the devil is to get us looking at the commendable, appreciating the friendliness, and admiring the knowledge and devotion. Then we may well ignore the rebellion and finally disregard the truth. We must not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11). How many people have selected a congregation based on its "friendly people" rather than its stand for truth.

Second observation. No excuse ever changes doing wrong. Noble motive (Robin Hood), extenuating circumstances, other people did not do as they should, -- the sin is still sin. Do not be deceived!

Third observation. Diotrephes did not learn about "rule" from the word of God. That rule is being a leader, an example of one who does right. He inspires the confidence and respect of believers and they follow. An army general must have trained Diotrephes. He only knows rule by coercion, mandate, force, and exclusion. No one questions the elders' right to decide but Diotrephes sees every suggestion as a challenge to his authority. Each criticism or disagreement is an insult to his position. Diotrephes will always be puzzled over Moses who was given charge of Israel but was the meekest of men (Num. 12:3).

Joe Fitch; 6326 Peacepipe; San Antonio, Tex.