Those who love to be first bring harm to the church

Read: 3 John

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. (3 John 1:9-10)


As ever, I shouldn’t be surprised at the aptness of God’s word to current events, whether on the world stage or in my own life. Substitute “Diotrephes” with “Chinese President Xi Jinping” and this passage still makes sense.

Mr Xi, like all national leaders, I suspect, loves to be first. He is not welcoming to John – that is, through John’s writings in the Bible, which the President wants to re-write. The coming of John, through his gospel, epistles and Revelation, shows the Chinese government to be full of nonsense. So Mr Xi refuses to let the Bible be sold unless it (and all Christianity in China) is adapted for socialist society:

Mr Xi had said religions could operate only if they were “Chinese in orientation” and that Beijing “must provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society” — which experts saw as an part of an ongoing crackdown by the ruling party. (abc.net.au)

The truth is, until Jesus returns there will be people in every country who reject God’s word and refuse God’s messengers.

But what if I substitute my own name in the place of Diotrephes’s name: Do I love to be first? Do I ever reject the messengers who bring God’s truth? Do I refuse to welcome believers who come as visitors to my local church? Do I discourage others to exercise hospitality to these visitors, being overly suspicious? Do I spread gossip about other believers, whether visitors or not? Is my response to my own husband’s sermons (he is my pastor after all) sometimes unwelcoming of the message God gives him for me? Do I think I am better off if I try to do Christianity on my own, apart from a local church body?

May it not be so!


Those who love to be first bring harm to the church.


LORD God Almighty,

Make me humble, please! Help me to think of others, to be compassionate. Make me kind-hearted, generous, hospitable, welcoming. Help me to put others before myself, to be willing to serve.

I confess I all-too-frequently love to be first. I want to be first in line, first down the highway, first to lead, first to speak, first to act. I need to slow down and let others go first; let Jesus go first. I need to be willing to come in second, last, to DNF or even DNS at some things. Please forgive me.

LORD, I need to trust you more. I need to remember that it is you who establish my steps, you who make straight my paths. LORD, I need to trust you to get me where I need to be, to place me among those you want me to be with. Help me, please.




Christianity is defined by Christ, not by any human government

Read: 2 John

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1:8-9)


Today, just after I read 2 John, my husband told me that the ABC has just reported that China has blocked the sale of Bibles – from online stores at least – since Easter Friday, 30 March 2018. It is no longer possible for a Chinese person in China to purchase a Bible in the Chinese language online.

This is both censorship and religious persecution, the preventing of people from freely pursuing their choice of religion. I shouldn’t be surprised. Just yesterday I read in 1 John 5:19, that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one”.

What are the Chinese losing through this heinous act of their government? They are losing access to the revelation of God, the teachings of Christ.

How may Chinese Christians continue in Christ’s teaching if they cannot read it? Only God can make a way, through his Spirit.

The ABC reports that “the most common interpretation” of this pulling of Bibles from online stores is that “it would be replaced with a state-revised edition.” A Chinese government document recently released was quoted as saying the Chinese will ‘enhance’ “Chinese-style Christianity and theology.” From the ABC News article:

According to an official document released by China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs, one of the biggest tasks in the coming years is to enhance “Chinese-style Christianity and theology” by reinterpreting and retranslating the Bible.

The document, titled Principle for Promoting the Chinese Christianity in China for the Next Five Years (2018-2022), was formally launched in Nanjing in eastern China on March 28. Some social media users said Bibles started coming down from the websites on March 30. (abc.net.au)

There is no such thing as Chinese Christianity, just as there is no such thing as Australian Christianity. Christianity is not defined by the nationality of its adherents, but by Christ, our King. Christianity is not white or black or brown, not eastern or western or even Middle Eastern. Whatever the Chinese government publishes and ‘enhances’, they are merely “running ahead” (to use John’s words), not keeping to the truth.

And it is the truth of Christ that sets us free. But perhaps that is exactly what the Chinese government fears. Perhaps the truth of Jesus Christ has the Chinese government on the run.


Christianity is defined by Christ our King, not by any human government.


LORD God Almighty,

I am heavy hearted as I pray tonight. I fear for what this political decision means for Christians in China. Will the government try to force Chinese Christians to accept the very antichrists that John warned his readers to avoid (1:7)?

LORD, Give them strength. Make their faith powerful as your mighty power. Help them to keep access to your Scripture, your Word, the Bible, in their own language. May they know the truth about Jesus and not be confused by propaganda of a socialist Chinese-ified version that has no glimmer of your glory.

May people in China find your word freely available once again.

LORD, please make my country’s politicians speak up against this censorship and religious persecution. May our politicians be open in their condemnation of this act by the Chinese government.

And may more people in China and in every country read the Bible and meet Jesus Christ on its pages, starting today.