Where the rebuke of the outsider does not stem from pride, it may stem from an honest albeit misguided concern for the glory of Jesus. Jesus apparently sees John’s concern along the lines of such “honest” concern. These young Christians – who include the sort Paul warns of in 2 Timothy 2:22 — need correction but also need toleration:
But there is such a thing also as honest scrupulosity, and it is more common than many imagine. There is a certain tendency to intolerant exaction, and to severity in judging, in the unripe stage of every earnest life. For the conscience of a young disciple is like a fire of green logs, which smokes first before it burns with a clear blaze. And a Christian whose conscience is in this state must be treated as we treat a dull fire: he must be borne with, that is, till his conscience clear itself of bitter, cloudy smoke, and become a pure, genial, warm flame of zeal tempered by charity.
Bruce ends the paragraph with a note on charity. Such line drawing and party spirit need not exist only across separate congregations. The church of Corinth proves that party spirit can infect a single congregation:
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:10–13 (ESV)
As Paul works through the problems of Corinth, he demonstrates the manner in which they have shown no charity, no longsuffering, no patience, no kindness, no gentleness toward one another. Even the matter of spiritual gifts became a source of conflict! Thus, Paul instructs the congregation that the way of escape from their temptation (1 Cor. 10:13) lay not with one party “winning” but with the exercise of love:
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (ESV)
Love being the hallmark of a Christian – as John learned (John 13:34) and as he taught (1 John 3:11-20).