Imitation of what is evil is easy; imitation of what is good is difficult. It is easier to imitate a rude word spoken in anger than a compliment spoken with thankfulness. It is easier to imitate a habit of selfishness than a habit of kindness. It is easier to imitate the proud than it is to imitate the humble. It is easier to imitate wickedness than it is to imitate righteousness. The reason why it is easier to imitate what is evil compared to imitating what it is good is because we are more likely to notice evil done than good done. We notice a deed of malice quicker than a deed of kindness. We hear a word of hatred clearer than we do a word of compassion. We perceive the evils in the world more than we perceive the good done by others.
As Christians we need to turn those natural tendencies around. We need to love easier than we hate. We need to discern what is true easier than we believe what is fake. We need to imitate what is good easier than we imitate what is evil.
That is what John both exemplifies and instructs in the short letter called 3 John. It is a short affectionate letter to a believer named Gaius, whom John had come to love (3 Jo 3:1-2). Gaius had made the Truth “his truth”, and himself lived in light of the Truth (3 Jo 1:3). John noticed that, and experienced much joy himself for seeing Gaius’ reputation for the Truth (3 Jo 1:4). But John also noticed that Gaius exerted much effort to love the saints. Gaius considered himself a worker in his church and helped believers in the most practical of ways as he could (3 Jo 1:5-8). Gaius had indeed turned the tables on the tendencies of this world; Gaius had found it
easier to walk in the truth than to walk in what is untrue, and Gaius had found it easier to work in love, than to sit back in apathy. Gaius had come to experience what every true Christian ought to be experiencing—that my God’s work in our lives, we find truth and love easier to imitate than the normal falsehoods and sins of this world.
But, sadly, not everyone in the church was like Gaius. Instead, there was a man named Diotrephes who had appointed himself as a person of influence in the church, and was using slander, discrimination, and division as tactics to promote himself (3 Jo 1:9-10). Therefore John warned Gaius not to be attracted to what Diotrephes was doing, and not to start imitating that evil; instead Gaius had to focus on those who still were faithful in doing good (3 Jo 1:11)—just as he himself had been doing. For as much as Diotrephes was modelling all the wrong ways of Christian living, there was another named Demetrius, who, like Gaius, had developed an excellent reputation from all those who love the Truth and walk in it themselves (3 Jo 1:12).
We are in frequent need of this reminder. Every church has those who are truly walking in the truth and loving one another. Every church also has those who have ulterior motives, and demonstrate it by their compromise with the truth and their love for self instead of for one another. Do not be tempted to imitate the wrong one! Imitate those who find it easier to believe the truth than to fall for a lie. Imitate those who find it easier to love one another than to love themselves.
John could have relaxed a little and not written personal letters like this one, but instead he found it easier to encourage Gaius in love and truth than do nothing. But, in his closing words, he admits that he would even prefer to travel all the way to Gaius and talk in person than to sit down and write this letter (3 Jo 1:13-15).
May we all find it easier to exert much effort for the sake of the Truth,than to merely go along in the path of least resistance.