Thursday, August 26, 2021

Lasting Lessons from 3 John

Deep diving into 3 John this morning. It's brutal, having to decide what to focus on in Greek class and what to leave out. 


For example, did you know that this short letter has 16 non-active Greek verb forms? I didn't either until I counted them. I'm tempted to go rogue and use the term "deponent" in class. And then there's the theme of hospitality. It's not a new practice or the next big thing. It's been around since the beginning of Christianity. It's an enduring way of living that shaped Becky's and my decision to buy our farm in Virginia and open up our historic 1811 farm house to guests (we have 7 retreating here this weekend). It makes me feel like I'm a part of something old and durable. I feel humble, rediscovering the message of 3 John, and I am thankful. Elsewhere I've called this the Gospel of Hospitality. Community is always a gift, wherever you find it. 

John is very clear about church leadership. Don't love to be first. Maybe we start here: surrender your grand titles. I am weirdly protective of Jesus' status as the only Senior Pastor the church has ever known (see 1 Pet. 5:4). I love the pastor who, as part of an elder team, introduces himself on Sunday as, "Hi, I'm _____, one of the pastors here at [name your church]." It's not working, America, our celebrity church culture. The answer is clear: Quit trying to do it all. 

Finally (for now), how about the idea of self-support? I love how Stephen Smalley puts it in his commentary on 1-3 John (p. 339): "The admonition to support Christian ministers 'in the cause of the truth' is not incompatible with a 'tent-making ministry'." He adds, "These ministers were concerned as any 'to present the gospel freely,' without slavish dependence on others, whether or not they happened to be Christians." 

I took five pages of notes this morning. Creativity isn't easy, but I want to be a person who works hard to bring value to class every time we meet. That's how it is when you give yourself totally to your profession. It takes time and lots of ingredients, but at the end of the day no one would mistake it for fast food.