Dealing with Diotrephes (The Other Side of Servant-Leadership)

3rd John 1:9-10  I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.  (10)  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

I recently posted a blog entitled A Gift to Gaius (A Biblical Illustration of Servant-Leadership) in which I brought out the value of giving positive feedback and how it no doubt served Gaius in a way that only positive feedback from a respected person can. There is also another form of servant-leadership I’d like to address in this post.

Pastors are known as shepherds when it comes to leading God’s people, and the Apostle John was no exception to this. Just as shepherds have to love their sheep, so also are Pastors expected to love the people they lead. We see John’s loving side of this role in his opening address to Gaius. We see how much Gaius and his efforts for the kingdom of God meant to John and the great Apostle showed immense excitement for the fact that there was a man in that church who could be counted on to take on substantive and important roles! This would bless any Pastor!

There is another side of shepherding that, although it’s often recognized among those leading actual sheep, it is often overlooked, completely ignored, or even despised when it comes to spiritual shepherds. The side of which I’m speaking is the protective side of shepherding.

We see an example of this in the ever famous account of David and Goliath, where David tells King Saul in 1st Samuel 17:34-36  And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:  (35)  And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.  (36)  Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear…

This part stands out to me as it pertains to the protecting side of servant-leadership because, as I alluded to earlier, it seems that when we think of leading God’s people as a shepherd, we think of it as only being in a loving, soft, or caring way. While there is certainly a place for this, it is as if that’s the only side of leadership there is or that we should acknowledge. That’s not even the only side of actual shepherding, as we see from the words of David who was a young shepherd at the time he spoke these words. So, if we are going to use shepherding as an illustration of servant-leadership, then let’s make sure we get both sides of the illustration involved.

When David told King Saul that he killed the lion and the bear, it was for the sole intent of protecting those sheep. He didn’t allow the lion and bear to be around the sheep because “The bear just has a few anger issues that need to get worked out, but one day he’ll repent” or “The lion just likes to play a little rough with the sheep, but he means well” or “One day the lion and the bear will understand the error of their ways. I just need to keep loving and teaching them until they finally understand and repent”. And yet, this is how shepherding God’s people is viewed!

As a shepherd, David did not view it that way. He viewed it as “I need to serve these sheep and serve my father, to whom these precious sheep belong, by protecting them against these predators who obviously have ill intent against the sheep.” David recognized “Both are predators and that’s what predators do. So, I need to take the proper steps to ensure these predators don’t do to my sheep what predators like to do to sheep…kill and eat them!”

THIS is what the Apostle John was doing when he told Gaius in 3rd John 1:10  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

In other words, “I’m dealing with this, not because I don’t care for Diotrephes, but as a service to those whom he is destroying by his evil works.” Just like David, John was protecting the sheep from the predator that obviously had ill intent. He didn’t say, “Well, Diotrephes just needs to pray and hear the Gospel more and he’ll eventually get it”. John was willing to deal with the situation, knowing that the temporary friction it caused would create heat for a while, but he also knew he could take the heat and that the long lasting benefits would be worth the investment of time and energy.

Just as in our last post, there is a caring and loving side of servant-leadership, but there is also a protecting side of servant-leadership. John understood this and, rather than letting the innocent get slaughtered for the sake of keeping one person or not offending anyone (good luck with that), John was willing to accept the responsibility of his role as an Apostle and deal with the one who wasn’t doing right in order to preserve and protect those who were doing right. That is a side of shepherding we don’t hear much about, but it is definitely Biblical and it ends up serving everyone better!

Published by Jason Fulmer

Jason Fulmer currently serves as Pastor of New Testament Christian Church, as well as Personal and Professional development teacher to U. S. Servicemembers, in the Camp Humphreys, South Korea community. His life's goal is to lead men and women to THEIR next level of living and leading through Education and Example!

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