I wonder, when John wrote about Diotrephes, whether he remember a young man long before.
Diotrephes, we read, was refusing to offer hospitality to other Christians, and insisting that other members of his church did the same. It’s not clear why, but perhaps he didn’t agree with their doctrine, or perhaps he was just tired of ‘interference’ from the wider church.
That young man long ago had wanted in righteous anger to call down fire from heaven on a village whose inhabitants wouldn’t listen to Jesus and offer hospitality to him and his disciples. (Luke 9:51-56)
The same Diotrephes, John tells us, ‘likes to put himself first’ (3 Jn.9).
That young man long ago (or perhaps his mother on his behalf) had asked with his brother to be given the top seat beside Jesus’ throne when he came into his kingdom. (Mark 10:35-45, Matt. 20:20-28)
That young man long ago was called John.
Perhaps John recognised something of his younger self in Diotrephes, perhaps not. But he had changed – he was alert to the dangers of zeal outpacing love, and of human ambition tangled up with spiritual fervour.
As I look back on my younger self, what do I recognise? How have I changed, what have I learned? And how, perhaps, can I help others to learn from my mistakes without having to go through the painful process of making them again for themselves?