Lesson 13: Power Struggle
This week’s lesson, based on the letter of 3 John, focused on a power struggle that was occurring in the leadership of one of the early local churches. For those of us who’ve been in church long enough, we’re well aware of the struggles that go on beneath the surface — about who the leadership should be, the direction of the church, finances, and even sometimes doctrinal issues.
I’m sure many of you have had some sort of disagreement or conflict with another church member.
But I don’t want to focus on how to resolve those conflicts; an important topic, indeed, but not one I’m going to discuss. I want you to go inward with me. When these conflicts arise, are we Diotrephes? John, in his third letter, singles out Diotrephes as the cause of this conflict, because he is a man “who loves to be first among them.” (3 John 9). When conflict arises, we are always quick to start mulling over why the other person is wrong, misguided, or unqualified. But we must first ensure that we are not the one who is seeking that things be done my way, that people behave as I think they should. Our first thoughts should be conforming our lives to the commands of Jesus and Paul:
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” — Mark 9:35
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” — Philippians 2:3
When conflict arises, are these the first things you think of? Are these words the first you seek to obey? Or do you instead first go to task on making the other person realize that they are wrong? “Those who are inclined to regard their individual judgment as supreme are in grave peril.” (E.G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 444).
There is of course a danger in having a servant’s heart. If you humble yourself , the other person still might not do the same thing. This means, of course, you’ll be walked over. People will strike you, strip you vulnerable, and make you go places that you don’t want to. What then?
“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” — Matthew 5:39-41
The Man who spoke those words had those things done to Him. By us. For us. You must ask yourself, “Is the servant greater than the master?” (John 13:16).