Jude’s letter feels in the right place, near to the end of the Bible. It carries the feel of a time when the church’s innocence is wearing thin, so that Jesus’ brother Jude has to warn against those who are taking advantage of the spirit of love and making the most of the possibility for influence and gain that the church can offer, especially to those with a gift for rhetoric and a willingness to teach what suits them.
To church members, there’s a warning here to weigh our teachers and leaders not just by what we hear or read in their words, but also by what we see in their lives – is it clear that they have the interest of others at heart rather than their own? Alarm signals that Jude points to include indulging lust, rejecting the authority of those over them and pride – showing disrespect for the angels. (Jude 8)
To church leaders, there’s a parallel warning to keep an eye on our own motivation and behaviour. It’s easy to slip into letting others put us on a pedestal, and to stop listening to our own sermons.
In response to the presence of false teaching and division, Jude’s call to the church remains clear (Jude 20-23)
- Build yourselves up in holy faith – in knowledge of God and in living out that knowledge
- Pray in the Holy Spirit – allowing God to pray and work through you
- Keep yourself in the love of God – echoes of John’s ‘abide’, resting in the confidence of God’s love and presence
- Look forward to future mercy – remembering that there is better yet to come
- Have mercy on others – including those at risk of error, those being misled and (if I’m reading v.23 right) even on those who are doing the misleading. They too are loved by God and need his mercy.
That’s not a bad place to pause before the home straight of this blog – or maybe not straight so much as steeplechase. Revelation is next…