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3rd John: Gaius and Diotrephes. A Leson in Hospitality

3rd John teaches the importance of hospitality by contrasting the character of two very different men.

John dispatched this letter to a church whose name is lost to us now, through a man called Demetrius. Demetrius, however, is not sent to the head of the church, but rather, to a man named Gaius. Why?

It seems a man named Diotrepehes had assumed a position of power in the church, and in an attempt to jealously guard his position, began bad mouthing John and other leaders. He also refused to welcome messengers sent from other churches and if anybody else did so - he kicked them out of the church. 3JN 1:9

Now it is very likely that John knew Gaius personally and may have played a part in his conversion or early instruction because he refers to him as one of his "children", and he has even heard from previous messengers about his love for the church. 3JN 1:3-4 So John has a pretty good idea that if his messenger (Demetrius,) can't receive welcome from anyone else, he may at least find some here.

John promises that when he comes he will set things straight, but for the time being it is important for him to maintain an open door to this community so that they are not completely cut off from God's people.

Hospitality is a characteristic ingrained in God's people from the very beginning. In the book of Genesis we read about Abraham and Lot entertaining angelic messengers Gen 18:2, 19:1. This lesson carries through to the New Testament in the book of Hebrews it states

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Heb 13:2)

You may be unaware of who your guest really is, so you should show hospitality towards everyone. But even more than that, it's just the right thing to do. As every person is created in the image of God, the hospitality we show others is received by God as if we had given it directly to him.  Any in-hospitality we show is likewise in-hospitality toward God.

I believe this is why, in commending Demetrius to Gaius John closes with these words:

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 3JN 1:11


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