Seldom mentioned, the book not often read, you might find Jude making the top-ten list for the least popular books of the Bible. More of a letter, Jude’s inspired words tend to stay hidden. Perhaps this is because it’s found before the last humdinger, Book of Revelation. The end times prophecies enthrall many people. The book of Jude, though, is no less significant. In fact, it’s a pertinent call-to-action before the end, and so relevant for right now.
The other morning when I’d asked the Holy Spirit which scripture he’d like me to read, he told me, “Jude, Chapter 1.” This gave me a chuckle, because Jude has only one chapter. Way to be specific! Anyway, I’ve been soaking in the words since. Jude paints an unattractive picture of the faithless, disobedient, and wicked. By providing three examples in his past, he gives an unpleasant warning to the people of his present. In our reading his words from roughly A.D. 66-80, he’s providing a message for OUR today.
Jude admonishes us to take heed of those who would say forgiveness allows us to live immoral lives. When we seek personal gratification and/or allow the opinion and persuasion of mankind and influence of mainstream to dictate over the opinion, persuasion and influence of God. Woe to those who would succumb to accommodating, allowing and accepting certain patterns and pressures, and compromising the faith by celebrating certain things or movements that, well, shouldn’t be. Not if we’re to uphold the truth.
He reminds us of Egypt, when God rescued the nation of Israel, but destroyed those who didn’t remain faithful; fallen angels, who rebelled against God’s authority and were ousted into prisons of darkness until the day of judgment; Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed for its practice of sodomy and other acts of sexual immorality, perversion—and what our unchanging God still calls unnatural and wicked. Jude also gives examples of woe for like that in Cain, who killed his brother; Balaam, doing anything for money; and Korah, rebelling against God-appointed leaders.
The idea of forgiveness, even in some of the church today, has seeped in with a faux glittery package that says we can identify as and be whoever we want and live however we want and God loves us no matter what. Aren’t we special! Well, yes, God loves us. But he loves us so much, he calls us out of sin. Because our society, and the prevalent way of thinking, is wrong, about a lot of stuff, when compared to the Bible. Forgiveness first means repentance. Sincere regret, when we call on God our Father, is replaced with mercy and compassion (because we are special, the apple of his eye). And we’re in the fold, into his kingdom, just like that. So very simple, because Christ bore our sins and grace is a gift that reaches the deepest depths for us. True repentance gifts us with eternal life.
What’s most humanly difficult is wading through the gravity of our centuries of pervasive sin. We (mankind through Adam and Eve) had it pretty good once. God created this perfect paradise in the Garden of Eden, and we had freedom and wholeness from sickness, disease, destruction, confusion, chaos, hatred, dissension, division, yada yada yada. Most of all, we had the privilege and pleasure of being in constant, beautiful, fluid communion with the One who created us! We had peace and unequivocal acceptance. By our choice, through temptation that has since wreaked havoc on our souls, man fell away from God, separated and banned from the Garden. Now here we are today, born into that same sin, feeling like gravity, difficult to wade through the effects on our bodies and psyches… but not impossible. Because of God’s love for us, and his great patience, waiting and hoping, and reaching, and extending the ultimate sole path (Jesus) for us to rejoin him.
What’s distinct is the favor and knowledge of God. What’s key is our everlasting survival. We are to protect the truth of the Gospel against a culture that would seek to twist, corrupt, or compromise the truth in the name of tolerance or acceptance. Indeed, with a heart of compassion, we are to reach out to our brothers and sisters and help hurting people, whether it be from abuse, identity crisis, rejection, perversion, prostitution, slavery, addiction—literally everything. But none of us are meant to stay where we are. We’re to come out of sin and away from a lifestyle of sin. And to support each other out of it. Our identity is in Christ alone. We reject whatever is keeping us from being holy—for we are called to be holy. The world is dark and getting darker. He’s calling us higher, closer; to be a beacon on a hill, a lighthouse in the night season, to spend more time in his presence. It takes a daily renewal and commitment.
Jude’s message today would be unacceptable in many circles of our current culture. If he were living right now among us, he’d be called something like a hater, rude, or intolerant. But what he does in a 25-verse chapter is admonish those in the faith to fight for the faith. For the love of his neighbors, for the love of God, he takes a sad song and makes it better. We’re to study The Word, build each other up, pray in the Holy Spirit—not asking for selfish gain but to know him better. And if you don’t know how to do that, how to listen and hear from God, how to even start… It’s sort of like learning a foreign language. You’ve been given the free-kit or app, so to speak. When you first start studying a language, little makes sense. But as you listen, read, practice, spend time in it… the more you immerse yourself in it, the more you understand, the more fluent you become.
Be fluent in the Gospel. The Word of God is where you find the only pure and unadulterated truth; and unblemished and perfect love. Little known Jude packs a punch, but it is Good News. Why not start there? And from there, perhaps, Psalm 32 (The Joy of Forgiveness).