Today's scripture focus passage: 3 John 1:9-14
Accompanying MacArthur sermon: Friends and Foes in the Church, Part 2
This book has become especially valuable to me as I seek to become a more hospitable person. It's a struggle for me, but having a better understanding of the WHY of hospitality helps.
The spread of the Gospel in the days of the early Church can be directly attributed to the practice of hospitality. The apostles were constantly travelling from city to city with no place to stay but in the homes of people sympathetic to the message. New disciples were spawned by the growing churches and again, teachers went out from the little congregations and the Word continued to spread as generous saints opened their homes to meet the needs of these itinerant, often penniless, pastors.
In our day and age, I think the argument could be made that the need for hospitality has only grown since the Early Church, despite our wealth and the incredible availability of restaurants and hotels. Let's face it: no matter how great our churches might be doing, how wonderful and godly our pastors are, the variety of programs we have available, it is through RELATIONSHIPS that the Gospel still spreads most efficiently. And as much as our society claims that social networking keeps us connected and helps us stay in touch, it doesn't come close to having the same impact as opening our homes and getting into people's lives does.
And so here we come to a comparison between a generous, hospitable man and a selfish, pre-emminence-seeking man. John comes back full circle to what he talked about in his first letter ~ that these men's actions prove who is a true follower of Christ and who isn't. Which should make us think VERY carefully about our own attitudes towards practicing hospitality!
And, I think, it's also a warning that being inhospitable qualifies us for church disciplinary action. Another rather UNpopular concept in our day and age, but John clearly states here that if and when he has the opportunity to visit this church, he WILL expose Diotrephes and deal with his lies and slander. He WILL expose Diotrephes' hunger for power in the church and lengths he's gone to to keep truth out of the church.
Despite the ominous tone of this last half of the letter, John closes with another warm salutation. His love for these people is obvious. Also clear is his desire to much rather speak with them face to face than address them on paper. He was not content really to just leave this note on the church's Facebook page ~ he wanted to BE there WITH them, to see them, to hug them, to share meals with them, to laugh with them, cry with them, and be angry with them, if necessary.
He was also not content to just say, "TTYL, everybody!" He asked that Gaius, to whom he'd written the letter, would pass along his greetings to all his friends there by name. This letter wasn't just a general church letter, but a personal note to each individual whom he loved. I'm not sure why he doesn't name them himself if he wants so badly for them to know they are important to him, but maybe there were just too many to sit and write out. Or maybe there was need for some anonymity until the letter reached its destination.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: Numbers 31-32
Monday's scripture focus passage: Jude 1:1