There are certain verses which don’t get as much air time as they deserve.
The Book of Jude is only one chapter long, but talk about one chapter that is packed with thoughts worth contemplating.
In verse 4, Jude addresses a particular kind of false teaching, which he says belongs to people who are ungodly. Namely: they pervert the grace of God and make it into a license to sin.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen that attitude amongst Christians more times than I can remember. It is incredibly common, and I believe it is related to the discussion of “free grace” and perceived value, which I wrote about last week.
Towards the end of his letter, Jude gives a call to action:
But you, beloved, 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. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:20-23 ESV)
What I see here in Jude is a man who had a very important balance in his heart and in his message:
- Pursue holiness! Don’t compromise! Preach the Gospel in truth, calling people to repentance!
- But show mercy to those who doubt. Be patient with people who are struggling with doubts, who have sincere questions, who are struggling to believe.
There is a difference between a mocker and a doubter. A mocker is one who doesn’t even take the time to thoughtfully consider something – the kind of person who says: don’t confuse me with facts; I’ve already made up my mind.
A doubter though, is one who is willing to thoughtfully consider, but they have honest questions. I think this is where so many people are at in our society. I think this is where a lot of young people are at, coming out of high school, getting into college, as they begin to explore for themselves what it is that THEY believe, apart from their parents. Our posture towards them must be one of patience and mercy, helping them find real answers to their real questions.
The fact is, not everybody who isn’t a Christian is a hater. Some of them just have sincere doubts. And they are not to be seen or treated as enemies or adversaries.
The difference between sincere doubt and mocking doubt is portrayed very clearly in Genesis chapter 18, where God tells Abraham and Sarah that they are still going to have a baby, even though they’ve already been waiting for 18 years for that promise to come true. Sarah laughed, in a mocking “Yeah, right…” type of way.” Abraham asked, “Lord, how can I know that you will really come through on this promise?”
The difference was, Abraham was struggling to believe; he was struggling with sincere doubts. Sarah however had already determined in her heart that this whole thing about God’s promise to them was just a cruel joke.
May we have the posture that Jude had: No compromise, holiness for ourselves – and mercy and patience towards those who wrestle with sincere doubts.