3 John – Beloved Gaius
“To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth” 3 John 1
There is a lot in this brief letter to catch a person’s attention. Some preachers never get past the first verse where the words ‘prosper’ and ‘health’ catch their imagination and become proof-texts for all manner of out-of-context theologizing.
Others focus on leadership, the good kind modeled in the letter by Gaius, and the bad, demonstrated selfishly by Diotrephes who “loves to have preeminence… prating against us with malicious words.”
For the tender hearted the greeting itself brings pause. The great Apostle John was known as the ‘beloved disciple,’ or ‘the disciple Jesus loved,’ (John 20:2) and here he addresses his brief letter to the beloved Gaius’ and refers to him as ‘beloved.’ It seems that the love that John felt from Jesus he felt for his dear friend Gaius. I love you like Jesus loves me.
If you know Jesus, that is, have entered into covenant with Him by believing the Gospel, experiencing the forgiveness of your sins, dying with Christ in baptism and being made alive together with Him, born again into new life in Christ, you probably carry a deep sense of His love for you.
But if someone asked you what His love feels like it might difficult to articulate in human terms. Because His love is a Divine love expressed through the sacrificial humanity of Christ, the God-man. It’s a bigger love than we can naturally give, although it it is wonderful and indescribable to receive.
Solomon may have come closest to loving with Divine love when he gazed at his beloved and said, “You are perfect, there is no flaw in you.” (Song of Solomon 4:7) I think that’s how perfect love views the object of their affection, with boundless grace that covers imperfection like a robe of righteousness. This is how God loves everyone who walks in the truth. This is the kind of love that draws us to holiness.
How was John able to feel that for another person? To say people are not perfect would be a vast understatement. If you’re looking for them you can probably find some pretty big flaws in just about anyone. I think John could love like Jesus because the old Apostle was beginning to partake of the divine nature as Peter wrote about.
As Christians we are not supposed to remain the same, our love and godly attributes are to grow as we are conformed more into the image of Christ and are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We won’t reach a perfect state in this flesh-bound body, but that is the direction we are to be heading nevertheless, to Christ-likeness. And someday, God willing, as we grow in Christ, we will begin to see things more as Jesus saw them, feel things the way Jesus felt them. And, love people the way the Son of God loved them.
So while I certainly loved my wife on our wedding day, neither of us would have said that I loved her as deeply as Jesus. She was my love, but she was His beloved – perfect, with no flaw. I loved her with my whole heart, but my heart was still more flesh than spirit, more selfish than divine.
But through the miracle of God’s holy sacrament our love has grown. As we have gotten closer to Jesus we have gotten closer to each other. As we become more Christlike we begin to see each other more like Jesus has always seen us – perfect, clothed in His own righteousness, the apple of His eye.
While we are still twenty or thirty years younger now than the apostle John was when he wrote this letter, we are well along the same journey that he had almost completed. John could see people who walked in the truth the same way Jesus saw them.
We’re not there yet but we’re not where we used to be. Inching forward. When I read something as simple as “to the beloved Gaius”, I think of God’s love for me, and long to love all those who walk in the truth with that same Divine love.