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reality bites: 3 john

According to ChatGPT (AI bot), “the phrase ‘reality bites’ is often used to express the idea that reality can be harsh or difficult to accept.” When it bites, we pray. 

In the only prayer recorded by the apostle John, John prays for his friend Gaius (3 John 1:2). The prayer is short and bold. No dilly-dallying here. “We’re the best of friends,” says John, “and I pray for good fortune in everything you do, and for your good health—that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul!” (3 John 1:2, MSG). When you pray fervently and tenaciously, less is more. Prayer is not verbose. It’s not about how long we pray or how eloquent we sound. Prayer is both a means to action and the highest form of action. 

One of the best ways to love people is to pray for them. Love wants people to flourish spiritually, physically, financially, and relationally. According to John, nothing is too trivial when it comes to prayer requests. If Gaius had a hole in his sock, John would put it on the church prayer list!

John doesn’t use the word blessing in this prayer, but he captures it. “Bless” is one of our go-to words when we don’t know what else to ask. But what exactly are we asking for? When John prays, “that in all respects you may prosper” (NASB), the Greek word, “prosper,” is passive—which means to be on the receiving end. So, when we pray, “Lord, bless Uncle Goober,” we’re asking that he receive the Holy Spirit’s power “to live well” (honor Jesus). Nothing makes John happier than to know that his friends are experiencing the reality of Christ’s reign (3 John 1:3-4).

John knows that blessed people bless people with hospitality. “Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship” (3 John 1:5-6).

Offering hospitality in the first century entailed more than sharing a meal. Along with food, hosts provided lodging, care for the guest’s horses, after-dinner drinks, entertainment ranging from hired dancers and musicians to storytelling, bathing, departing gifts, food-to-go, and directions to the next stop—all of which underscores the time consuming, economic sacrifice of “hospitality.”

Although guests, like fish, often begin to smell after three days (Ben Franklin), hospitality treats outsiders like insiders. As soon as Abraham saw three visitors coming, Sarah started kneading the dough, roasting the meat, and chilling the wine (Gen 18:2-7). Laban welcomed Abraham’s servant while his daughter attended to their guest’s camels (Gen 24:28-32). Job claimed that he, too, “opened my doors to the traveler”—just like the Shunammite woman did for Elisha (Job 31:32; 2 Kings 4:8-11). Samson’s dad offered to make dinner for the Angel of the Lord (Jud 13:15).

Who cares if people smell like Nemo and Dory? “Anyone who welcomes you,” says Jesus, “welcomes me and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me … And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (Matt 10:40-42). “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).

Jesus welcomes us, not as temporary guests, but as full-fledged members of God’s household (Eph 2:19). “There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home” (John 14:2). Rumor has it that the food and wine are out-of-this world.