Jude 1:1 “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to the ones called in God the Father, having been set apart, and having been kept by Jesus Christ:”
I will admit that I have a special affinity for Jude. I think there is a lot packed into a very short letter and that it is often neglected. My favorite part of Jude though is really the first verse. Jude is introducing himself and actually makes the bold claim that he is a servant of Jesus Christ. Let that sink in. In your introductory line would those be the first words that come to mind? Is that how you would start your letter? Is that how you would identify yourself to anyone for that matter? Would you have both the boldness to proclaim such a thing and the confidence that it was true? I hope so, but I fear most of us would not.
Jude goes on to talk about how he wishes he could write about the common salvation but instead feels the need to encourage people to contend for the faith. He says the hard stuff. He encourages us to do the hard stuff. My understanding of Greek is limited, but I believe that he instructs us to struggle for the faith. Contend is often used in translation as well. Struggle is forceful. Struggle is not a peaceful vocation. It need not, and most often should not, be violent, but it is forceful. It is forceful in the way that Christ was forceful. Forceful in love, in truth and in honesty. It is being willing to say the hard things in the difficult times. It is not for the feint of heart, and and can not be done without the spirit. It is nothing less than the conviction that if the entire world were to push telling you that there was no God and Christ were a myth, that you would stare the world in the eye and say, no, you will move. I know Truth. Would you do this? Would I? I hope so, but I fear not.
So much more great stuff in Jude and I encourage you to read and study it, but I am going to fast forward to the end. Jude 1:24-25 ” Now to Him being able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you before His glory without blemish, with unspeakable joy; to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty and might and authority, even now and forever. Amen.” Is this how your letter ends? Are these the thoughts at the end of every conversation and interaction? Don’t we all think “thank God it is over” to much and not “thank God it began” enough? Don’t we try to praise ourselves, and each other for a job well done to often and not God enough? Don’t we often roll our eyes when we hear people give God the credit and be secretly thankful we are not one of “those Christians”? Jude starts by identifying himself as a servant of Jesus and ends by praising God as deserving of glory and, in fact, being the ultimate authority. Is that how your letter would end? Is it how mine would? Perhaps a rewrite is in order for most of us. a rewrite that follows Jude’s beginning and ending and having a healthy dose of what is in the middle.
Reading “Jesus Wept” via Plutarch’s Cato the Younger
John 11.35 is one of my favorite, if not the favorite, bible verses. Simply, “Jesus wept.”
We know the story well. Jesus was summoned by Mary and Martha to come and heal their dying brother, Lazarus. Jesus at first refused to go, but after knowing that “he had fallen asleep,” Jesus and his disciples finally went.
After arriving, Jesus met with the little faith of the sisters, and their anger. He broke down and wept. Why? Often interpreters suggest this was because of the little faith. I believe it helps us to focus on the humanity of Jesus. Here, perhaps because of exhaustion, or maybe even something about self-arrogance, Jesus broke down and wept for the death of his friend. He knew it wasn’t everlasting and knew he would bring Lazarus back. Yet, he wept.
While reading Plutarch’s Cato the Younger, 11, I happened on a passage that was familiar. Remember, Cato is writing in part to correct the myths swirling about Cato while creating a myth himself. When Cato’s brother was dying, he took a boat and few friends to race towards him, but encountering a storm, was slowed.
He narrowly escaped drowning, and by some unaccountable good fortune came safe to land, but Caepio had just died. In bearing this affliction Cato was thought to have shown more passion than philosophy, considering not only his lamentations, his embracings of the dead, and the heaviness of his grief, but also his expenditure upon the burial, and the pains that he took to have incense and costly raiment burned with the body, and a monument of polished Thasian marble costing eight talents constructed in the market-place of Aenus.
For some people cavilled at these things as inconsistent with Cato’s usual freedom from ostentation, not observing how much tenderness and affection was mingled with the man’s inflexibility and firmness against pleasures, fears, and shameless entreaties.
I am further convinced that the mention of Jesus weeping is not about meeting the lack of faith, but about his humanity. We are called to focus, in the one Gospel proclaiming the highest of Christologies, on the lowly and weak humanity of Jesus. He cried for his friend, for his brother.
Reaching the Losing According to Jude
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.