An Authentic Transformed Heart (Part 2).
The Apostle John’s last of his three Letters was to Gaius, the beloved (3 John 1), and it appears to be similar in tone to his earlier personal Epistle to the chosen lady and her children (2 John) in its focus on living a faithful and selfless life as witnesses in the community. However, the supplementary reason for the communication was a gnawing leadership disciplinary issue that required resolution (3 John 9).
The Elder’s introductory greetings and initial comments were focused on Gaius’ testimony that had reached him in Jerusalem (3 John 1-8). As with his previous Epistle, truth was again raised by the Apostle, and its import was articulated unmistakably as a vibrant personification of Christ in Gaius’ faithful adherence to the teachings of the Lord; viz., his obedience to the commandments of God by walking in the truth, exemplified explicitly the way Jesus obeyed His Father in the expression of His ministry while on earth (3 John 3-4; c.f., John 5:19-23; John 12:49-50; John 14:15; John 15:9-11). Gaius was probably a person of some stature for John to have cited the Diotrephes issue in his Letter, but his standing did not prevent him from humbly extending hospitality to ‘strangers’ in his own home. These aliens appeared to be either from Jerusalem or other parts of the Near East, who were itinerant missioners in the service of the Lord (3 John 5-8). Hence, Gaius’ generous obedience was not just limited to an internal process of the mind and heart, but involved external expressions that validated the internal reality of the presence of Christ in his life. Similarly, a full appreciation of our revealed position and responsibility in the Body of Christ invariably commits us in our lifestyle participation towards the increase of God’s Kingdom in multitudinous ways.
John subsequently addressed the contrasts he found between Gaius and Diotrephes, both believers, in their divergent attitudes toward God’s workers. Humility and pride, graciousness and obnoxiousness, compassion and selfishness, mercy and tyranny, obedience and unfaithfulness, light and darkness, were all juxtaposed by John as he described how faith and truth are only evidenced by behaviourally loving actions and an open and empathetic attitude towards others, especially God’s servants (3 John 9-11). He further cited Demetrius as exemplary in his positive disposition in this respect (3 John 12). It is particularly interesting that the Apostle profiled leaders on the basis of their behaviours, differentiating them as good or evil, by the unequivocal test of plain and simple civility in normal everyday interpersonal relationships, whether they were ‘of God’ or had ‘not seen God’ so that believers could emulate what is ‘of God’ (3 John 11). You would have thought that perhaps John would have focused on miraculous healing, a word of knowledge, or the power of demonic deliverance as better standards of exemplary leadership, but he did not (c.f., 1 Cor 13:1-3). Instead, he proffered the often quiet, hidden and sacrificial ministry of hospitality as praiseworthy. It stands to reason that the only way we are able to discern and internalise such distinctly commendable attitude for ourselves, is when we are committed to serve in a church community, walking face-to-face in unremitting vulnerability and rectitude with individual believers, and especially our leaders, observing their attitudes and behaviours as would be models in Christ. This is how we know and demonstrate that we have seen God in one another. The bottom line is, do we walk our beliefs and talk, in enabling Christ, the personification of truth and love, to influence our conversation and behaviours? The fact is an authentic transformed heart always beats in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:25).