"I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us" (3 John 9).

FIRST PLACE

Steven Clark Goad

he struggle for preeminence is an obsession with some. I admit that I admire the fortitude of Olympic athletes. It requires sacrifice and determination to excel in sports or any other area of life. As I recall I never got all that many blue ribbons in track with these short legs of mine (excuses, excuses). But I got a lot of yellow and white ones plus the thrill of competition. That's exciting and challenging in itself.., to be able to compete.

The family of God is a little (a lot) different than how things are in the world. The rules just aren't the same. To be first one must be willing to be last. To be king one must be a slave. To humbly excel in the body of Christ one must rid herself entirely of the desire to compete. Christians never try to outdo each other. Lighthouses aren't in competition. The Lord said that to achieve greatness in the fellowship of Jesus one must become a servant of all. Sure would solve a lot of problems.

The spirit of Diotrephes lives on. He wanted first place. He was covetous of the apostles' place in the kingdom. He felt more deserving than they. So he shunned cooperation. Too bad. He had his own brand of discipleship that promoted self and pummelled others. His relatives are in the institution called "church" even as we write.

I never met Diotrephes, but I've run across his clones. They are in the eldership sometimes. They are in the deaconship sometimes. They are in the membership sometimes. They are in the teachership sometimes. Sadly, more often than not, they are in the "preachership". Their theme song is "My Way". They are loud. They are opinionated. They are disruptive and self-willed. What they lack in common sense and spirituality they try to compensate for with bravado. They are "full of sound and fury signifying nothing." Beware!