By Elder J.A. Reynolds
They make people their game pieces, and the suffering they cause the insignificant pawns on their mighty chessboards matters little to their vain ambitions. We have people in our ranks who are sowers of discord among brethren for selfish gain. With friends like these, what need have we of enemies? Everywhere they have gone, strife and confusion has surrounded their stay and remained in their wake. Yet all of this was caused by others, to hear them tell it. Others were envious (or “jealous” they say) of their talents or success, and this is why strife and controversy has followed them like a shadow. Such delusions of grandeur are normal for immature carnal lovers of pre-eminence whose minds are filled with conceit, vanity, and fantasy.
Life is a game to them, and apparently, so is church. All of life is a rivalry in which satisfaction is to beat the other fellow or team. Post the highest score or numerical statistics, revel in the elation of vain victory while loving the praise and honor it seems to draw to you, and wear an air of pride and disdain toward your inferior vanquished revels. Even show your glee by taunting them with phony friendly chatter and barbed humor. Like the barbarian Genghis Khan, happiness is your foot on the necks of your enemies. (His “enemy” was anyone who dared oppose his dominance.) Is it not disgusting to spiritual people to see Diotrephes loving and acquiring the preeminence (number one place) in or among the Lord’s churches, sometimes even successfully “casting out” all who disagree with or oppose his designs? The “sportsman” mentality of this generation makes us especially vulnerable to Diotrephes. The mind of such an overgrown brat is exactly that of the point guard on a “one man team” in little boy’s basketball. He has never matured mentally, even by the world’s standard, not to mention the standards of a spiritual God.
Such pervasive brattishness is hurting our whole nation socially, politically, economically, religiously, and spiritually. Such warlike games and the petty kings, lords and knights, queens and ladies, who love them are found plaguing every arena of human affairs. Some people play games with other people’s lives, livelihoods, and futures in business, politics, and education. They do it for the thrill of power and dominion it supplies to their sinful perverted minds. They make people their game pieces, and the suffering they cause the insignificant pawns on their mighty chessboards matters little to their vain ambitions.
Those who build their empires or dynasties in religion are worse! There they derive vain pleasure from toying with the souls and eternal destinies of other people. They take advantage of the deep inner religious nature of our race, and of natural but uneducated fears regarding the unknown of the future and especially of eternity.
We have those who will attempt to build themselves a dynasty right on top, or in the very midst, of God’s kingdom, or WITHIN the very church of the Living God. Every such Diotrephes needs to be immediately detected and stopped! At whatever cost, as soon as he is discerned, that cost will prove far less expensive than the cost of allowing him to usurp the dominion he craves. Do not hesitate and wait in the vain hope that he will go away, change, or that the Lord will take care of the matter. Every moment of hesitation and forbearance allows this cancer to grow and to malign others. But be forewarned, that Diotrephes’ normal reaction to all who oppose or expose his designs, is to falsely accuse them of seeking the very dominance he craves. Perhaps his sick mentality really believes that everyone else shares his vile ambitions.
Normally, Diotrephes is a type of character who lacks some essential talent for building an empire or dynasty in the real secular realm. In the church he takes advantage of and abuses the humility, forbearance, and charity of others. In most other adult arenas he would be quickly judged and vehemently, vocally, and perhaps even physically opposed as soon as his goals were discerned by perceptive associates. Such a vain person can succeed much better where fantasy rules while being supported by the real labor of others. Childhood gangs, clubs and leagues, and school campus societies, are training grounds for such vanity as many adults never grow up. Our modern society would do well to take steps to eliminate much of this adverse aspect of our children’s training lest they live their lives as Don Quixote, Miniver Cheevy, Walter Mitty (all popular dreamers from classic literature) or worse yet, as John’s adversary, Diotrephes.
We must be aware, however, that no Diotrephes can exist without some special charm, a magnetism which naturally draws admiring disciples to himself. Who can explain why righteous Isaac so admired the cunning hunter in profane, worldly, lusty Esau? Who can explain why spiritual David admired the beauty and grace of a treacherous and worthless traitor named Absalom? In both cases the admiration was far in excess of a father’s normal love for his son, causing the fathers to greatly err. Who can explain how the vocal eloquence and demagoguery of a warped Adolph Hitler led masses of German people so far astray? Who can explain the charisma of John F. Kennedy and his fictious “camelot” presidency, whose popularity neither time nor adverse revelation seems to be able to diminish? Do not sell the fleshly charisma short of its amazing abilities. The coined terminology “con (CONFIDENCE) artist” contains its share of wisdom. An ever increasing number of our people place confidence in whomever they “feel” good about, and these are very easily “conned” by the right person.
Of all places such vain ambition should not be allowed to succeed, surely first is in or among the tiny remnant of our Lord’s true churches struggling for survival in this crooked and perverse society. The biggest single aid to these troubler’s in our churches is an unscriptural naiveness, tolerance, and passiveness which has become the current popular attitude of saints. Do we excuse this milk toast attitude as Christlike meekness? I stop a bit short of my temptation to label it cowardice. Someone has wrongly trained us to be like this. Diotrephes is nothing new. He has exalted himself repeatedly in and among the churches of every generation and will continue to do so until the end of the world. If we do not cure the cowards in the middle by getting some perception of harsh reality and tough backbone in our spiritual, meek, and charitable members, he will certainly take control. Our excessive love of “peace” (I should call it “ease in Zion”) is not Christian. It is more akin to cowardice. We try to buy “peace” now at the price of supposed forbearance in the face of a carnal Diotrephes vying for ungodly dominance. Like the Jews of Germany already in the jaws of Nazi exterminators, we still cannot believe it is happening! Isn’t “church” supposed to be peaceful and easy, a sanctuary from a world of strife? A sanctuary? Yes! But easy? No! No! Our “ease in Zion” – our refusal to be vigilant – “wise as serpents,” Jesus said, as well as “harmless as doves” – is an open invitation to every would-be petty, childish, brattish, unmatured, clever, vain, proud, domineering, tyrannical Diotrephes to exalt himself to pre-eminence first in his own mind then over the rest of the church. We all need to wise up, wake up, stand up, speak up, and resolutely say to him, “enough!” No “peace” is worth allowing some vain and immature person to rule the kingdom or church in place of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One great aid to many a modern Diotrephes is a silent courtesy of discerning elders in not naming him to others. After all, telling the truth about his acts and motives wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do, would it John? Did you really write to Gaius accusing Diotrephes of LOVING “first place” among the brethren? Did you think that God might show your letter to the whole world for millenniums to come? You know He did! But has anyone understood it, John?