First, I’m going to say that this post is going off the deep end right from the start. I plan to light it all on fire. I’ve got Prince’s cover of Creep rolling – and I have a ton of thoughts on life, the universe, and everything… oh, and on III John as well. But wait, whassisss? You are writing about the Bible? I thought you did movie stuff? Well yeah, but I’ve also been on this journey of writing at least a thousand words about every single book of the Bible for something like 10 years now. I literally have no idea how long I’ve been doing it. A long time. I’ve been writing these 66 entries forever now. So long in fact, that I’ve come to worry that by ending them, I’d somehow be guaranteeing my demise. Only slightly joking there. I’m not a superstitious person. At all. But I am on this particular topic. Strangely. Let’s do this – Biblionomicron – III John.
Regardless – let’s start this. My position after 15 years at the same organization has recently been eliminated. Which, is weird. I sympathize with those of you who have been laid off – it is an emotional, and tolling, and taxing experience. Today I was asked – literally this question, and I quote – “How is your heart.” Thankfully they asked me during a zoom call, in a chat. And I was able to just laugh and laugh to myself. I even laughed back in the chat, and said that that was how my heart was. Whatever that meant. It’s a manic, and depressing… it’s a exhilarating, and near suicidal, sort of experience. I am so happy and so thank full. I am so sad and heartbroken. You know? The clearest, and most concise why I’ve been able to describe it is to say, “It feels like someone is punching me in a place that already has a deep bruise.”
Please do not get me wrong, I am wonderfully fine. I’m so lucky. God is so gloriously good to me. But I’ve realized many things in the progression of this chaotic journey. Like, that there are single mothers out there that have been laid off, in the middle of this pandemic, and there was no safety net for them, like there has been for me. And I can’t even imagine it. The tech market is flush with jobs – so I will probably find something sooner rather than later. I have been taken care of by the company that laid me off. But that single mother? No. Not so much. She’s probably received a couple of Covid payouts from the US government (payments that Dave Ramsey has stated that if $1400 makes a difference in your life, you are beyond helping… I’m biting my tongue now.) but that’s about it. So I am so so so so so thankful. And heartbroken. In this life you will have troubles. My heart breaks for those of you that are having troubles. It really does. The pain of that pounding on that bruise, coupled with the desperate need to care for your kids. Man, that breaks, no shatters, my heart. This will all loop back around… I’m sure it will… though I have no idea how.
So let’s talk about 3rd John… which, you might be interested to know, is about 200 words long in the original Greek. It’s the shortest book in the Old or New Testaments. It’s a letter from the apostle John to some dude named Gaius. (Gaius isn’t a helpful name, because it was a really popular name back in the day.) And as far as the Bible goes, this is a pretty chill book. It’s not Lamentations or Deuteronomy anyway.
The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you.
Its interesting to notice that John didn’t identify himself here. The Elder. And he didn’t identify Gaius either. He also goes out of his way to not identify specifically what he’s talking about here. It’s as if he is speaking in code. Why? Maybe Domitian? The Emperor of Rome at the time? While maybe not as brutal as Nero, probably wasn’t exactly accepting of Christians of the day. I mean, Nero’s hatred for Christians was well documented by Suetonius and Tacitus. Similarly, Domitian’s disdain for Christian’s is well documented as well. Domitian expected veneration of his statues, and punished disrespect to his likenesses as sacrilege. The guy was an egotist in the extreme. Heck, his food was holy in his mind. The early Church was speaking in code to one another – mainly because the danger was real. Only 20 years prior Nero was torching Christians to light his garden parties.
And that is where I come to my first epiphany about where I am now in my own particular faith journey. Relationship with God doesn’t keep you safe. Actually, it does exactly the opposite. It drops you into the middle of the most dynamic, dangerous, and life impacting journeys imaginable. To become a Christ follower is not a safe thing to do. I mean, put aside the historicity of martyrdom in the Christian faith (Nero’s torches is just one example. I used to read Fox’s Book of Martyrs regularly as a teen as sort of an inspiration of what my faith might call me to. I swear, I did. It was literally the only book I carried around with me all the time in my backpack. So much so, that in AP Lit, my junior year, when my teacher introduced the class to the book, I flipped it out of my backpack and handed it to her as reference. ‘Woah. That has got to be a first for anyone teaching this class… uh, Taylor? Want to walk us through why you carry a copy of this bizarre book in your backpack?’) and the very real risk of being murdered for your faith around the world. Will I be martyred here in America…?? Absolutely not. Won’t happen – at least not overtly like in Burkina Faso. I mean, think about the comments and emails I get after I write every one of these posts. Uh, Taylor… go write these somewhere else, is basically what they amount to. (Never mind the fact that I was writing these here long before I was reliably writing movie write ups. If anything, I should write my movie write ups somewhere else. But is that persecution?? HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah, no.)
The Christian faith is not sexy in the least… at least, a real view of Christianity. You might hear a really enticing perspective on Christianity that is 100% false: ‘Become a Christian and all the world’s problems will go away. It’s a model of positive thinking that promises wealth and prosperity. By unlocking the door to Christianity you will live a sin free life.’ All massively false. In fact, I would argue, all those points are diametrically opposed to true Christianity. What does a real life of true Christianity look like?? Well, Christ said that Christians that followed Him, would daily, choose, willingly, to climb up on to their cross and die to self. Literally to take up your cross daily – Luke 9:23. THAT! THAT IS THE MODEL OF CHRISTIANITY!!! Man I suck at that. But I want to decrease so that He might increase. And that is what John is encouraging Gaius on to here. A life of faith. Living out this faith daily.
And interestingly, John then calls out two examples of people who are both good and bad in their walk with Christ. The first being Diotrephes, who had been slandering John and other apostles. We don’t know anything about this guy, save that he “Loves to be first.” Wow. I love to be first! hahahah. But in the walk with Christ the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. This is possibly the worst thing a Christian could ever say about another Christ follower. ‘Great guy, but he makes it all about him.’ That is antithetical to our called to action of putting God first. (Dude, it’s so hard. I feel for you Diotrephes… better you than me though! hahahah.) I am hopeful that his correction by an apostle (and eternal infamy) resulted in his course correction. Heck, I’ve missed it before. I miss it all the time. I would hope that if I was called out by a brother, and giant of the faith, I would realize I missed it, and try to figure out this whole, “FIRST” thing. And the second being Demetrius, a guy that was killing it. He was probably the courier of the letter, seeing as though there wasn’t a FedEX play back then. And heck ya, this guy stuck his neck out, did John a huge favor, and delivered his letter. That is an enormous help. An obvious testament to his faithfulness. Am I a Demetrius, or am I a Diotrephes? Have I endeavored to live my life as me first? Or have I endeavored to live my life where God is first? Am I the letter courier, or am I the letter writer? Do I need to have the spotlight? Or am I happy to support others, and sing their praises from the sidelines?
Final Thoughts on III John
Life is so transient. So ephemeral, and then it is gone. We spend our time here on earth scrambling and scratching out an existence, and before we know it, it’s over. You may be young. And you might just think you have an eternity ahead of you… but you really don’t. For me, I have chosen to believe that the God of the universe, and everything in it, has a plan for your life. And that is for you to live a life that is in connection with Him. Not metaphorically, but literally. Will that connection with Him make your life better? Yes! It will! Will it make your life easier? Absolutely not. And in fact, it may just make it much, much worse materially. But spiritually and mentally, there is no better life you can have.
Personally, my life seemingly turned upside down in the last few weeks, but there is no place I’d rather be… with Him, walking through this chaos. It beats a life of supposed contentment happiness at the top of the world. (Listened to a podcast the other day – Heavyweight #2, Gregor – wherein Moby tells Gregor that at the top of his success was when he was at the height of despair, and the closest he’s ever been to wanting to commit suicide. Just saying. “Success” may not be all that it is cracked up to be.) Why? Because the purpose of life couldn’t be more clear… we were design for connection with God. We all have a God shaped hole blasted through our middle. (To incorrectly quote Pascal.) And the only thing that can fill that void is our creator.
And I would rather be a Demetrius in my one chance at life. Sure, Demetrius is only mentioned once in the entirety of the Bible… but that is one more time than I was mentioned in the Bible. His life was lived serving a higher purpose, and a higher calling than just being first. Because, at the end of the day, how many people do you make happy being first… maybe one. And I’d argue probably not even one. But what do I know?
Anyway – there you have it. 2,000 words on a 200 word book. And with 3rd John down, we only have two more books in the entire Bible to go. Jude – another small one, and then the craziest of them all. Gonna have to go out with a big when we do Revelation. Until next time.