Listen to v.9-“I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.”
This is a power packed little warning for all leaders, especially those who strive to be Christ-centered leaders. There seems to be a clear connection here.
If you put yourself first you will not acknowledge the authority of another.
How can you. You are first. John understood this principle. Take a look at Matthew 20 or Mark 10 or Luke 22. These episodes reveal where John received some of his leadership lessons from Jesus. This is where James and John request the right and the left hand in Jesus coming Kingdom. But Jesus tells them (and all of the disciples) that spiritual leadership is slave leadership (not just servant leadership–look at the status categories).
Slave leadership implies a master by definition.
The master is lord and requires submission.
The master has ultimate authority.
Leadership for the follower of Christ begins with a fundamental acknowledgment of being under another authority.
The first line of authority is that of Jesus Christ. But this also requires an acknowledgment of recognizing other authorities that God has placed over us. The Christ-centered leader never puts himself first. To do so get’s things out of order. In this case, Diotrephes could not welcome or show hospitality to traveling teachers in the Church. He was even throwing people out of the church who did welcome these teachers of the truth. This was probably the case because these teachers were a threat to him and his perceived self importance.
Where are you in your own ranking order–truthfully?
How welcoming are you to others who lead and teach? To the degree you welcome and show hospitality might reveal the degree you see yourself as a leader under authority.
Are you a “slave leader”–putting yourself last–or one who puts himself first?
As far as I know this is the only place in Scripture where Diotrephes is mentioned–a sad leadership legacy–may it not be yours or mine–by the grace of the gospel.