Convicted: Do Good
February 18, 2018 Series: Convicted
Passage: 3 John 1:1–1:14
02.18.2018 Convicted Do Good
Scripture: 3 John
We are going to read an entire book of the Bible this morning. This is not a joke, we are, this morning, going to read an entire book of the Bible. Who’s excited? Who’s a little concerned this is going to be a lot longer than you signed on for?
This is going to be amazing, you’re going to love this, because I guarantee you this: we are going to read an entire book of the Bible, you will still get a sermon, AND you’ll leave no later than you would normally. It’s really a great day to be in church, isn’t it? And for the rest of the day you can walk around proud that you read an entire book of the Bible today.
Right now we are in the middle of a sermon series called Convicted. The premise is the question if you were on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict? We are asking how our faith has translated into our daily living. I need this reminder from time to time to square my actions and my beliefs and I hope this is helpful for you too. We’ve been looking at these theme through the three rules for Christian living John Wesley had. Last week we looked at the first, to do no harm, and said that the first step in Christian living, the first step in letting our actions flow from our faith, is in a world of hurt and pain to commit to do no harm. This morning we are going to look at the second rule: do good.
Doing good seems so obvious as a way to mark a Christian life. Doing good seems so obvious as a way to be convicted for being a Christian.
And yet, how often do we shy away from the task? How many opportunities to do good do we let slip away? In fact there are some who would say that talk of doing good as a test or evidence of faith is preaching works righteousness. The connection between good works and faith has been a much debated and thought over topic throughout Christian history.
So we turn to read a whole book of the Bible to seek to understand how our faith connects to good works. This morning we are going to read the book of 3rd John. It’s actually a letter, John’s 3rd letter. They’re all pretty short, one of our small groups has been looking at John’s first letter. 3rd John is all of 14 verses long and it’s the shortest book of the Bible.
It’s a letter of commendation, which was a pretty typical letter folks in the ancient world would write. Ancient societies were fairly closed due to limited availability to move around. I remember when I was twelve years old playing little league, we had a tournament down in Dale City and from Springfield, Dale City seemed forever away. Because I was 12. And the only freedom of movement I had at 12 was wherever my feet could take me. Which was not to Dale City. The ancients had similar restricted freedom of movement so the people you knew where the people who lived around you.
This presented slight difficulties for the early Christian community. Someone from outside the community could come into town, drop a name of an apostle or elder in another Christian community, and expect to be welcomed in that town. And since the early Christian communities held everything in common, would have access to literally everything the community had. There’s a lot of risk involved here. So to have some sort of seal of approval, folks would send letters ahead of visitors they knew to be coming to particular towns to say, “Hey this guy is coming, he’s legit, you don’t have to worry about him.” That’s what 3rd John is. But it’s also this interesting discourse on good works, hospitality, and the Christian need to do good. Let’s take a look at it.
3 John 1:1-14
The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
The letter starts off pretty standard for an ancient letter. There’s a greeting and a general salutation. John says he is glad to hear that his friend is persisting in following Christ having heard a testimony of Gaius’ faith. What’s interesting about this first part is that right off the bat John connects being faithful to the truth and walking in the truth. John connects being faithful, which is a personal inner activity, with walking in faith which suggest action. John is going to continue with this theme of suggesting that there exists a connection between having faith and seeing that faith lived out in the world through righteous action. John continues…
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.
Now we get a little more substance on what was said of Gaius and the larger church community to whom John writes. Missionaries came through that community, evangelists, apostles, on their way to other towns to spread the message of Jesus. And Gaius and his church community welcomed them. They showed them hospitality. They opened their homes to people who were strangers to them, yet brothers and sisters in Christ.
John hints at something that I think is noteworthy. He talks about how Gaius and his church community helped the missionaries and then adds they received no help from the pagans. This points to the fact that the early Christian communities were peculiar, were different, were special. They distinguished themselves from the culture around them and they did it through hospitality. Through welcoming people who came in the nam e of Jesus. Through opening their lives and their homes to strangers.
How is the Christian community known in our community? How is it known in our times? If we were to go to Starbucks right now and ask the first 10 people that came in what Christians were known for, what distinguished Christians from our fellow citizens, what do you think they’d say? Would we be known for how radically hospitable we are? Would we be known for opening our hearts and our homes to those in need? Would we be known for the ways that we walk in faith?
Christians in this community run food pantries and clothing closets. Christians in this community reach out in love to the poor, to the downtrodden, to the homeless. Christians in this community are helping people feed their families, find employment, housing, and make a happy life.
But there are also surveys and stats that say that Christians are known for being hypocrites, for being judgmental, for being closed minded, opposed to learning, science, culture. There are surveys and stats that say what distinguishes Christians is being closed off from the needs of the world and from being dispassionate about the social problems we face.
Speaking of the negative things people say about Christians, not everyone in Gaius’ church community was as faithful and altruistic as Gaius. John’s letter takes a pretty dark turn, saying…
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.
Here we see that Christians being known for the wrong attitudes and actions is nothing new. From this letter it seems that from the very beginning the church has had the unique responsibility of praising those whose lives and service are particularly in line with the Gospel and calling out those who don’t square their beliefs and actions. It seems there was a man in this church community who wanted to lead the church in such a way that was antithetical to the Gospel, he didn’t want to welcome the missionaries. He didn’t want to show hospitality. And what’s more, he wanted to expel those from the community who want to open their homes and community to others.
There are still those in the Christian community who want the church to have an inward focus. Who think the church should focus on taking care of the people within the community rather than being concerned with those outside the community. There are still pulls within the Church to take care of members first, that the church should be about those that are already inside.
Calls for Christians to do good from time to time meet resistance. They meet resistance from people who think we can’t afford to do good to people outside the church community because we need to meet our needs first. They meet resistance from folks who think that the primary goal of the church is to comfort, help, and care for people who are already in the church. There’s a Diotrphes in most churches, someone who says we can’t open ourselves up to the outsider, we can’t extend hospitality, we can’t do good to those outside the church lest we risk being unable to meet the needs of those inside the church. John rejects that sort of thinking. Instead he says…
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone —and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.
Friends, we have now read an entire book of the Bible. How does that feel?
So this section contains the crux of the reason John writes this letter. It’s to commend Demetrius. It’s to say if Demetrius comes to town, and he’s coming, show him hospitality the way that I know you can.
But hidden inside this letter of “be nice to Demetrius” is an exhortation on what it means to do good. Johns says “do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God.” On some level, that is the crux of John’s argument. Those who walk in faith, those who show hospitality to strangers, those who do good are of God.
For John, being of God, being from God requires doing good. Being a genuine part of the Christian community involves concretely making real the love of God in the world. The love of God to strangers. The love of God to people outside the Church community. It means being distinguished from the larger society for good, hospitable, and sacrificial reasons.
So friends, do good. According to John it’s a requirement. Doing good is being from God. What more do we need?
Perhaps you might think, sure I’m happy to do good when the opportunity presents itself. Might that be our loophole to wanting to do good without having to do it? In the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend…
John Wesley once wrote, “There is scarce any possible way of doing good, for which there is not daily occasion…Here are poor families to be relieved: Here are children to be educated: Here are workhouses, wherein both young and old gladly receive the word of exhortation: Here are the prisons, and therein a complication of all human wants.” What Wesley is saying here is that every day you will encounter human need. Every day you will have an opportunity to do good. Every day you will be put in a position where you can do something for someone else. The question isn’t if. The question is will you.
John Wesley had another saying and this one is quite popular. It goes like this: “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” For Wesley, the question wasn’t would we ever have an opportunity to do good or when have I done enough good. We are constantly presented with opportunities to do good and we are called to do all the good we can. Doing good never ends.
Can I say thought that that can be dangerous. Doing all the good I can, well that can be downright scary. Because I know that I have finite goods, finite resources. I only have so much time, I only have so much money, I only have so much ability.
There was an episode of the little watched TV show Sportsnite where the main character faced a similar problem. He wanted to donate some money to a charity but was conflicted as to which one to support. Who’s to say that heart disease deserves my money over cancer he fretted. Over the course of the episode, the main character discovers its not necessarily about doing the best good or being responsible for solving all of the problems facing humanity. The key is doing something. The key is doing as much good as you can as often as you can. And counting on the fact that the good we do is enough because it’s part of the good work God is doing here. If all good comes from God, the little good we do will ultimately be enough because God is working for the good of us all.
But since the key is doing good, as much of it and as often as possible, I want to end today not with some sweeping rhetorical aria on the virtues of doing good, but simply asking how will you respond? Grab your lifeline and in the white space on the front, around the graphics, write down some good things you are going to do this week. How are you going to intentionally respond to this message, to this call, and out in the world, this day, this week, do some good.