I once heard a story about a man driving his car down a twisting, narrow country road. As he approached a bend, a lady shouted at him from the side of the road; “Big Ass!” Angered by her rudeness, he immediately shouted back, “Big Ape!” He then turned the corner and there lying in the middle of the road was a big grey Ass. Swerving to avoid the beast, the man crashed into a field and totally destroyed his car.
This story reminds me of a character in the Bible called Diotrephes in the third letter of John who also ignored warnings about the direction he was heading. It seems that Diotrephes was a leader or very influential member of the church. John warns he will call attention to Diotrephes’ refusal to heed his warnings; “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to put himself first, does not accept what we say and refuses to recognise my authority”[i] (3 John 9 AMP)
A critical point here is that Diotrephes was so self-absorbed that he would not accept what someone else said to him – even if that person was the very disciple who rested his head on the Saviour’s chest and was an eye-witness to Jesus’ resurrection!
I have often heard the argument that speaking a word of correction must only be done “in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Sadly, people often quote this scripture as code for warning others to stay away from speaking into their lives. We know John as ‘the apostle of love’ but he did shrink back from speaking strongly to Diotrephes and clearly not by invitation!
The question is: what is truly loving? The apostle Paul wrote; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” (Colossians 3:16). To admonish literally means ‘to warn’. If we think of a challenge from a brother or a sister as criticism, or a ‘telling off’, then we will become defensive. However, if we think of it as a potential warning of danger ahead, it can be easier to hear. Would you feel aggrieved if someone warned you not to go in a certain direction because a thief was laying an ambush ahead? I suspect not. Rather, you would be deeply thankful.
There is actually a thief laying an ambush ahead in our lives. Satan is a thief. A word of warning, if properly received, could be the thing that protects us from that ambush which could rob us of our full destiny in God.
How do you know when you receive one of these warnings? In my experience, it is often when it addresses the very thing that triggers your defences and flags on your offense radar! Consider Peter; when Jesus warned him that he would deny him three times, Peter’s immediate response was to be offended. Did Jesus’ prediction perhaps strike at Peter’s pride – meaning he did not heed the warning and ask Jesus how he might avoid this happening? Could pride in us mean we are not ready to listen to a loving warning?
It is worth remembering that a ‘blind spot’ is something that we cannot see for ourselves. Moses was warned by his father-in-law, Jethro; “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you!” (Exodus 18:18-19a). Moses wisely heeded the warning and was saved from total burnout; “So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said” (v.24).
Many years ago, as a young prideful Christian, I failed to heed any warnings and drifted from following Jesus. Then I joined a tiny church where the Pastor loved me enough to challenge me about unseen obstacles in my life. I thank God that he loved me enough to encourage and to warn me!
Sometimes we are much closer to Diotrephes and the car driver than we care to admit. The best thing you can do today is to pro-actively invite someone you are accountable to, in your church, to speak into your life. Walking in the full blessing of God means being open to heed the warnings.
[i] The Holy Bible: The Amplified Bible. 1987. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris is an Elder working at Living Hope Community Church on the Isle of Man. He is married to Carol and they have 2 married daughters. Chris was in the business world for 26 years before joining the church staff. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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