Jude, a brother of James who himself was a brother of the Lord ( Galatians 1.19; Mark 6.3; Matthe 13.55), was writing to the Faithful, under attack by false teachers, scoffers, and those who would take advantage of the Saints. It is a short letter, but full of punch.
As I was reading last night, I came across this small passage:
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminated their lives. (Jude 1:22-23 NLT)
Jude tells us three ways to reach, or deal, with people who are under attack and in danger of slipping way:
- Unqualified mercy to the weak in faith
- Force to those being burned in sin
- Mercy with wariness to those in sin
Often times I desire a very forceful reaction against sin, plowing full steam ahead, against any and all things deemed unholy (God’s way or my way?), yet while this is good 1/3 of the time, we must be reminded that there are times that those with a weak faith do not need to be beaten with the Gospel, rebuked, rebuffed, or reproved – they need mercy, prayer, faithfulness. We can walk with these people, and talk with these people. How else can we act as a support?
While a person weak in the faith may need compassion, those deep in sin need force – the fire and brimstone effect. There are some sins that separate the sinner from the congregation by their very nature – but we must remember that we are still commanded to tell them – snatch them, Jude writes, from the very fires of hell.
And while some are weak in the faith, some are deep in sin, some have slipped into sin, and need mercy. Sin is not always a conscious choice. I seriously doubt that a man wakes up one day and decides to cheat on his wife. It may very well start with a slide into lustful glances, and go down hill from there. The strength of his faith may be great, but he is in the need of mercy. What he needs is not shame and condemnation, but someone to speak to his heart. It is mercy that prevents us from allying with the person, as we must be wary of delving too deep with that person.
God has one single plan, but I believe that He recognizes us as all being very different. In doing so, He has allowed that we might need to be approached differently.
Remember, these people are not lost, they are just losing.