Beloved, imitate not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: he that doeth evil hath not seen God (3 John 1:11).

Much has been said in a such a short letter: John has spoken to Gaius regarding the support of those who proclaim the Gospel (3 John 1:5-8), warning him about Diotrephes (3 John 1:9-10), and will commend Demetrius as well (3 John 1:12). The core moral instruction and encouragement John has for Gaius is clearly and concisely presented in 3 John 1:11: do not imitate evil, but imitate good; those doing good are of God, while those who do evil have not seen God.

The exhortation is to not imitate evil, but imitate good. Such a declaration assumes there already exists a standard defining good and evil, and the only question left to decide is whether our thoughts, feelings, and actions will be done in imitation of that which is good or if it will imitate evil. We might like to think that there is some form of “originality” in the thoughts and feelings we have or in the actions we do, but we are all just imitators in the end. We go along whatever path we feel like going along; we find it well-worn at every point. Perhaps this is why God thought it best to send Jesus His Son in the flesh to embody that which is good in thought, feeling, and action (John 1:18, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 1:3, 1 John 2:6). We now know whom we are to imitate; we are to conform to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29).

Meanwhile the world does well at promoting evil through imitations of what seems to be good. Very few people are so bold as to imitate evil for evil’s sake; most people imitate evil by imitating things they think will lead to the good or happiness but are, in reality, fraudulent. We are constantly tempted to take God’s good things and make gods of them, to give the honor due the Creator to the creation (cf. Romans 1:18-32). People pursue imitation love, imitation peace, imitation joy, and all sorts of other imitations, all of which do not lead to righteousness and holiness but more often immorality and evil.

We do well to note how little vagary exists in this exhortation. One either imitates good or imitates evil; one manifests whether they know God or whether they have not seen Him. A similar delineation, spelled out in greater detail, is found with the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-24. Sometimes we would like to think that there might be some “gray areas” when it comes to good or evil, and yet the Scriptures remain stubbornly black and white about the matter. There is what is good, right, and holy, marked by humility, love, and compassion, full of grace and mercy, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit: this is the good which we are to imitate, and in so doing recognize that we are of the God who is all of these attributes. There is also that which is evil, sinful, and base, marked by fraudulence, deceit, lust, and worldliness: this is the evil we are to avoid, for no one who has seen God or truly knows of God would continue in such things which are entirely contrary to His nature and purpose. And never shall the twain meet!

There is good, therefore, and there is evil; the two are opposed to each other like the poles of a magnet. If we are to imitate the good, every process of life should be good: our thoughts should be good (2 Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 4:8), our feelings, attitudes, and disposition should be good (Galatians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:12-15), so that our deeds can be good as well (Matthew 7:15-20). This demands that we pay as much attention to the process as we do to the final product. It might be tempting to seek to promote or defend God’s purposes using the Devil’s tactics or playbook, but it cannot work that way; it is impossible to promote good with evil. We must defend and promote God’s purposes in God’s way, with love, humility, grace, and mercy (1 Peter 3:15). Contentiousness, sectarianism, anger, and all such things cannot produce the righteousness of God (cf. Galatians 5:19-21, James 1:20)!

This sharp contrast should remain with us as a good reminder and form of encouragement. It is not always easy to imitate good; there are a lot of forces marshaled against us (cf. Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:8), everything from lust to temptation to fear to pain to inertia. But if we have encountered the living God through Jesus His Son, how can we do anything else? He thought that which is good, maintained a good attitude and disposition, felt compassion on others, and went about doing good, and we ought to imitate Him. Let us imitate what is good, demonstrating that we know God, in the process as much as in the final product, in our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes as much as in our deeds, and so glorify and honor God!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Jesus Wept

Jesus wept (John 11:35).

John 11:35 is famous for being the shortest verse in the Bible, and yet its message is profound in its depth. Jesus’ weeping demonstrates His emotion and relationship with humans.

The issue of God and “impassibility” has been one of the matters of dispute in theology for generations. Does God have emotions, and is He swayed by them? Many throughout time have argued that God is beyond emotion and is not emotionally impacted by other agents or causes in an attempt to raise God above the emotional fray.

Yet we humans are created in the image of God, and we do have emotions (Genesis 1:27). While we cannot imagine that God experiences emotions in the exact same way we do, the Bible is too full of discussions about God’s emotions for God to have none whatsoever. God was sorrowful when He saw the sin of men (Genesis 6:6). God demonstrates His love and mercy toward us through Christ (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:1-10, Titus 3:3-8). These are strong reasons to affirm that God does have emotion.

Jesus’ weeping is a powerful demonstration of the emotions of the God-man. Is Jesus weeping because Lazarus died? Is He weeping because of the grief and pain of Mary and Martha? Or is He weeping because sin and death lead to such results? John 11:33, 36 indicate that the first two are certainly legitimate reasons, and the third may also be true. But does Jesus not know that He is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, and turn grief to joy (cf. John 11:4, 9-10, 24-26, 38-44)? Of course He does. But that moment has not yet come. At this very moment, those whom Jesus love are suffering and grieving, and their suffering and grief are real and based in a real problem. Jesus proves willing to weep with those who weep.

Truly, here, Jesus the God-man sympathizes with human weakness (cf. Hebrews 4:15). His great love and compassion leads Him to share in the sufferings of His fellow man, even though He is able to overcome them. He is not so unreachable or too important or mighty to shed tears with those who are in misery.

As Jesus does consistently, He leaves us an example to follow (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 John 2:6). Many people are afraid to open up and love others because of the risk and exposure. Love, at times, does hurt. If at no other point, love hurts when we lose the one we love in death. We think that if we close ourselves off we “free” ourselves from experiencing pain.

Yet, as we see, Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, and was willing also to suffer pain with them. He was willing to take the risk and to suffer the pain in loving them, just as He suffered the ultimate pain and misery of death on the cross because of His love for all of us (cf. John 3:16). Since God is love (1 John 4:8), and we ought to be like God (Matthew 5:48), we would do well to open ourselves up to the risk of love and its consequences, just as God was willing to do so.

God is not so distant that He cannot sympathize with us throughout our difficulties. We can have confidence that God has feeling, and has demonstrated His goodwill toward us through the offering of His Son. His Son, in life and in dying, loved, and experienced the pain that can come with love. Let us love as Jesus loved, weep with those who weep, and strive to be more like God!

Ethan R. Longhenry


But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

If there was anyone who ever lived who was above “feeling” for other people, it could have been Jesus. After all, He is the Word, God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14). He could have just stayed above the fray of the challenges of sinful humanity.

Yet He chose otherwise! He experienced the challenges that humans face, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He learned obedience through His suffering, having been willing to humble Himself greatly in order to experience such things (Hebrews 5:7-9, Philippians 2:5-11). Therefore, He can relate to the challenges humans face, and, in fact, seeks to do so!

One constant feeling Jesus has toward people during His life is compassion. The word in English captures the essence of the idea: “feeling with” or “suffering with.” The word in Greek is even more explicit: it is the word splagchnizomai, which literally means “to be moved as to one’s bowels” (Thayer’s). Such a definition may sound bizarre: what does compassion have to do with the bowels?

Have you ever had a moment of great empathy or sympathy for another person? Perhaps you saw someone just like you in a terrible circumstance. Maybe you were watching television and they showed pictures of people starving or dying in a foreign land. It could have been one of many other situations. Regardless, when you had that feeling, where did you feel it? Likely it was a “gut feeling.” And since that’s where people tend to feel such things, ancient people thought that love and feeling originated in the bowels. Therefore, one feels compassion when one has a “gut connection” to another in his or her circumstance.

That is the feeling that Jesus had toward the multitudes and toward those in need of healing. Even though He was God, He felt the pain and suffering of the people in His gut. That feeling motivated Him to heal the sick and preach the good news to the poor. The feeling helped Him relate to others.

We, as disciples of Christ, should feel compassion toward our fellow man in his distress (Luke 10:33, Ephesians 4:32). If Jesus could humble Himself to the point of being able to feel the pain and suffering of others in Himself, we should certainly be able to have the same feeling toward our fellow sinners! Compassion transcends all the various attitudes and judgments that divide men from one another, for when we can feel in our gut for our fellow man, we have developed a strong connection with him. If we have allowed the pain and misery of this world to deaden our feelings toward our fellow man, we cannot truly imitate Christ!

If we can relate to our fellow man in his experience, we will have good motivation to take the next step and to work to strengthen, encourage, and support him (cf. Galatians 2:10, 6:10). Notice that the Good Samaritan was motivated to “love his neighbor as himself” on the basis of his compassion toward him (Luke 10:33). It is very hard to do good for those to whom we feel little to nothing. Yet, for those with whom we can relate on a personal and emotional level, it becomes much, much easier! This is why God has charged individuals to help one another, to reflect Christ’s love toward their fellow men (Galatians 6:10, James 1:27, Matthew 5:13-16). Without the personal contact, there can be little to no feeling!

If we are going to serve others as Christ has served us (Matthew 20:25-28), we must have compassion on our fellow man. We must be willing to feel what he feels, even when it is uncomfortable. When we have compassion on another, we are able to better relate to others and get beyond all the factors that seek to divide us from them. It will be much easier to do good and to love our neighbor as ourselves when we relate to our neighbor and are willing to show him compassion. As Jesus showed compassion to us, let us show compassion to others!

Ethan R. Longhenry