I love love love it when something I’ve read a dozen times before suddenly explodes like fireworks with new meaning. 

Like, re-reading a classic like Pride and Prejudice and suddenly seeing all the prides, all the prejudices, playing out between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett — the themes come to life when you know what’s coming next in the story, right? 

I find it even more magical when someone pulls an incredibly simple, yet extremely profound — life-changing — truth out of a passage I know I’ve read from start to finish on numerous occasions.

We had a fantastic guest speaker at church a few weeks ago, and he jumped into 3 John and brought to life something I’d never seen before, that spoke with significant clarity to me, I’m still finding fresh truth in it.

There are a few key points to bring up that will help me pass along the lightbulb moment to you.


So. John, who wrote Third John, addresses Gaius, in this very short letter, and he starts by praying prosperity and blessing over Gaius. He addresses him as Beloved three times (and hold onto that thought for a moment) and he encourages Gaius because, basically he’s just totally stoked to hear that Gaius is walking in the truth, and being generous in the way he faithfully serves his church peeps, and even strangers. 

John goes on with a few choice words about Diotrephes… but I’ll let you read the passage below to see what his thoughts are there.

Words addressed to Gaius:

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. […] Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well… {3 John 2-3,5-6}

Words about Diotrephes:

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. {3 John 9-10}

John follows that with these remarks:

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does what is good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. {3 John 11}

So we’ve got this interesting little thing we might call a “character foil” from a literary perspective. There are two characters set side by side, and we get to see a contrast of personalities that makes us better understand them both.

Gaius is welcoming to everybody and is commended and encouraged for it.

Diotrephes longs instead for preeminence and, like the coolest of the cool kids at the ‘cool’ lunch table, he wants to call the shots on who’s in and who’s out. And it sounds like everyone who’s not already in is out.

When John writes Gaius this letter, he repeatedly reminds him of one thing: he is Beloved. And that’s not just like “I really think you’re awesome.” That word should speak to Gaius’ heart and whisper: you are the Beloved of an Almighty God. You are the Beloved of this Jesus that you preach. 

Side note: That lovely Greek word for Beloved, is the same word spoken when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and a voice spoke from the clouds, “This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

We get to be called THAT kind of Beloved. Wow.

That’s a side note light bulb, but let me get to the one I promised earlier.

Like Gaius and Diotrephes, we have a choice about how we receive the people who come into our lives, and this is it:
Every person can be a gift. Or, every person can be a threat.
If we feel like Diotrephes, say, maybe we want to stay in control, we are likely to see people as a threat.

When we first started our photography business more than a half a dozen years ago, it was hard not to think of other photographers as a threat. It was hard not to be filled with a mindset like, “There’s not enough pie for everyone. We need to get as much of the pie as we can get.” 

But when we began to trust that God was calling us to build our business, we could see more clearly that our part of the story was to be faithful. We connected with other photographers who helped us succeed, and we did our best to help other photographers along the way. We learned to live as the Beloved, and to trust God to open doors for us as He saw fit.

And open doors, He did. 

All these years later, we can sense how God has changed our hearts and helped us to have a sense of peace. When it seemed like another photographer was knocking on the door of some of our current clients, maybe even trying to offer similar services at lower prices, it was hard not to get ‘itchy’ and uncomfortable about it.

But over the years, we’ve learned to trust God and to say “There is enough pie to go around. God will take care of us.”

And even this worked together for our good, as our clients asked if we could do those same services for them — and we could, and we are.

This looked like a threat — but God made this person a gift.

As a writer I’ve had a hard time navigating the ropes of the writing world, wanting to lock arms and encourage others, but at the same time feeling “If I push you ahead, will I then be behind? If I help you get to the top, will that put me closer to the bottom?”

But I’m learning to receive fellow writers as gifts. And just this year, in choosing to join a community of writers where I can encourage others and be encouraged, I’ve found life and growth and … you guessed it… gifts, one after another, in the form of friends to walk alongside me on the writing journey, and wisdom I might’ve been too prideful to realize I needed.

Whether it’s the new nurse on your floor at the hospital, the new neighbor who just moved in down the street, the new gal at church who everyone seems to like, or the new business in town that seems to be in direct competition with yours, you can choose how you will receive every person you meet: threat, or gift. 

And if, like Gaius, we can find our identity as the Beloved, we can receive any and every person — brother or sister in Christ or absolute stranger — as a gift, deserving of welcome and encouragement, of friendship and love. 

You are Beloved, friend. Welcome the gifts around you today!


Special thanks to Peter Hartwig for being a fantastically encouraging guest speaker and inspiring many of these thoughts for sharing!!

Also note: Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved, is a fantastic, brief and deep read to help you understand what it means to be the Beloved of God.
I highly recommend it!

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