This article is part of the Why Study the Book? series.
God Fights for His Loved Ones
You hear brakes screech, a horn blare, and spin around to see your daughter running into the street. You yell and scream as loud as you can to get her to stop. The car lurches to a halt inches away from her. After scooping your daughter up and warmly embracing her, you step back and begin to lecture her, threatening severe punishment if she runs out into the street ever again! This is what our heavenly Father is doing in Jude—threatening the church to keep her from being dragged away from his love.
Blasphemy Is Back
What could possibly drag us away from God’s love? Jude, the brother of Jesus, warns the church about condemned creepers, wandering stars, grumblers, sin-lovers, loud-mouthed boasters, and blasphemers. In a word—self-lovers. How do we know when we’ve crossed
into dangerous love of self? When we’re more passionate about our politics than our Savior. When we obsess about our feelings more than the truth. When personal opinion is more precious than church unity. When we are more attentive to the news than the holy Scriptures. These are all signs we’ve run out into the street.
Blasphemy is a neon sign of self-love, something Jude spends a quarter of his letter on (8-13). While it may sound like something reserved for heretics, blasphemy simply means “to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans.” Have you demeaned others on social media? Spoken in a disrespectful way about your church leaders? Do you hold your cultural opinions so high you feel justified in maligning others behind their back? Then you have blasphemed, something Michael the archangel refused to do even to Satan himself (8-9).
On the contrary, Jude models true charity when he describes Christians in angelic terms, urging us to “not blaspheme the glorious ones” (8). Too often we take a short view of others, judging them by a snapshot of sin. But Scripture urges us to treat one another with the long view in mind—we are all glorious saints. How might the long view change the way we treat our ideological opponents?
Behold, the Beloved!
Consider how God speaks about his children in Jude, “To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (1). Jude describes us as “beloved” four times in this brief letter (1, 3, 17, 20). What does he mean?
In Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Idiot, Myshkin comes across a young peasant woman who genuflects before her baby. He inquires why. She replies, “Well sir, just as a mother rejoices seeing her baby’s first smile, so does God rejoice every time he beholds from above a sinner kneeling down before Him to say his prayers with all his heart.” What parent hasn’t stood over their smiling infant in rapturous delight? God’s attentive love for us is greater than this. We are not loved in theory but personally delighted in. We are beloved.
Perhaps our shortsighted, blasphemous treatment of one another is rooted in a misapprehension of how God sees us? He does not see us a dirty, vagabonds he must tolerate. God’s heart swells when he sees you, and he sees all of you. He also harbors the same transcendent love for those whom we dislike.
What if we loved one another with the love given to us? What if we conducted ourselves as kneeling sinners beneath a smiling God? What if we penitently confessed our blasphemy, self-love, and slander before the face of God? Engulfed in his forgiving love, no doubt we would treat one another as beloved. Convinced of his fatherly affection, we would view one another the way God views us in Christ—as glorious ones.
Calling Out and Building Up
How do we square the beloved long view of people with Jude’s pejorative language toward some? His immense love and clear perception compels him to call out subversive people. Sometimes the most dangerous people in a church are the least likely: well-loved, great social skills, community magnets, and yet, Jude describes them as “hidden reefs,” waiting to shipwreck faith. Alternatively, they may occupy places of leadership, “shepherds who feed only themselves” in pursuit of platform glory or relational power. There are the more obvious “fruitless trees” whose speech reeks of death. Darkness is reserved for all of them (8, 13).
God’s heart swells when he sees you, and he sees all of you. He also harbors the same transcendent love for those whom we dislike.
So, while Christians shouldn’t slander one another, we must call out the subversive so the family of God isn’t pulled apart and dragged away from God’s love. And for those lost between glorious ones and wandering stars, God says “have mercy on those who doubt” (22). We must come alongside the skeptical with compassion and edifying truth.
Jude touches on many more relevant topics including: subversion of authority, idolatry of freedom, self-made morality, and scoffing in the church. We must not be surprised about these things. Jesus warned us these times would come (Matt 24). Instead, let’s devote our individual and collective energy to “building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (20–21).
When we emphasize growing faith, Spirit-filled prayer, and staying in the love of God, we become a light to all, pointing one another to the mercy of Jesus Christ. A mercy available to us, and to those with whom we disagree. May we heed God’s loving threats and embrace this stunning promise to the end:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jud 24–25)
Jonathan K. Dodson is the author of 1–2 Peter and Jude: A 12-Week Series.
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