3 John 1:9-11. " 9I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. 10So
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. 11Dear
friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good."
Diotrephes was an outspoken leader in the church with strong opinions. His opinions were so strong that he gossiped maliciously about John and anyone else who disagreed with him. Not only that, he refused to welcome brothers and even went as far as to kick out people from the church who went against him. It is one thing to have opinions, but it is quite another to condemn others who hold a difference of opinion.
John uses an apt phrase to describe Diotrephes — one "who loves to be first." Evil means I want to be first and I don’t care who I have to hurt to get to the top. Evil is about being power hungry and manipulating people to stroke your ego. It is so easy to imitate evil because we all have that same tendency in us "to be first." It’s in our blood.
But John’s challenge is to not be that way and to instead imitate good. It is not enough
to have good intentions and empathetic emotions. Imitation means we see
good and we adjust our lives to conform to that good pattern of living. This requires a lot of self-death and a lot of crying out to God for his mercy and help from the Holy Spirit. Unless we are actively striving to live good lives in a directly practical and visible sense, then we are missing out on a large part of what it means to be Christian.