June 30: By Your Example

Esther 8:1–10:3; 3 John 5–15; Psalm 118:17–29

By nature, we are creatures of imitation. Children mimic the traits of their parents, and even in later life we are influenced by the habits of our friends. People naturally imitate, even if they don’t realize it or intend to. This is one reason why “lead by example” is such a powerful principle. It’s also why leaders can change the direction of a whole community—for better or worse (Jas 3:1).

Diotrephes, an ambitious member of the early church who misused his power, was unwilling to heed the advice of John and others who reprimanded him. In his letter to Gaius, a church leader known for his faithfulness and love, John gives this advice regarding Diotrephes: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).

Throughout his letters, John emphasizes that people’s actions reflect their heart. Diotrephes’ actions told a dismal story. Whether he was a church leader or someone who battled for leadership, he was characterized by his selfish ambition: He wanted to be “first,” and he did “not acknowledge” those in leadership roles (3 John 9). He was also known for speaking evil words that undermined other leaders (3 John 10), and he spread contention by refusing to receive missionaries and intimidating those who wanted to (3 John 10). These actions didn’t reflect the work of the Spirit in his life.

We’re not sure what happened to Diotrephes. Perhaps he left the Christian community. Perhaps he repented when John “call[ed] attention to the deeds he [was] doing” (3 John 10). His story, though, shows us that we shouldn’t imitate blindly. Instead, we should “test the spirits to determine if they are from God” and respond wisely (1 John 4:1).

Where in your life do you need to be more careful whom you imitate? Where do you need to set a positive example?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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