I’ve noticed something about Christians lately. We like a good fight. Whether it be over some appalling action by a worldly entity or the ramblings of a fringe so-called Christian, we like to get up in arms. We like to make sure everyone knows what we think. And, if other believers don’t agree with us, we don’t take that too kindly. I mean, good grief, how can they truly be Christians and not be totally, completely, and utterly appalled?
After all, if I’m appalled, shouldn’t you be, too?
Recently I read Jude. No, not for the first time, but as I read it I did have to stop and wonder if I’ve ever really read it before.
The entire letter is intended as a warning. Because we live in this world, there will continually be people of this world working against us to undermine the growth of Christ’s kingdom. In all honesty, some of them are not even aware that they are doing so, but when it comes down to it we are either of Christ’s kingdom or we are not. If we are not, then we are pawns in Satan’s hands. We’re either for Christ or against Him. There is no middle, neutral ground.
Sometimes we pick up on those who are against us pretty quickly, and other times we completely miss the subtlety. But, Jude is clear on how to both identify and combat those who work against us.
- Verses 17 and 18 remind us to pay attention to all we’ve been taught through Scripture – there will be false prophets. I think sometimes we miss our enemies because we’re not watching for them.
- But, verses 20-23 are even more important instructions. We have to keep ourselves holy! We must build up our faith, pray, keep in the love and mercy of God, and have mercy on others. The more we walk in holiness, the more we’ll both see and be able to stand against anything that comes against us.
Interestingly enough, though, there are no admonitions to fight and argue. It doesn’t tell us to stand up and defend ourselves. We’re not even told to specifically work to refute the false prophets directly. In fact, if there is any indication that we are to help others see truth, it seems that it is supposed to happen on a personal level. (vs 23 …save others, snatching them out of the fire…) It seems to be less that we are supposed to make public refutations and more that we are supposed to relate to the lost and deceived that they may see the truth through us, regardless of what this world throws at them.
Every time we get up in arms about one more attack from this world, we do something very dangerous. We draw more attention to the words and actions of the attackers than we do to the truth. We add fuel to the false prophets’ fires and neglect our own home fires. As a result, our churches dwindle for lack of diligent teaching and discipleship, and new members are not added to the family. After all, they may get the idea that they must turn away from the falsehood, but how often are they given something to turn toward?
This world is appalling. Of that there is no doubt. It will become moreso the closer we come to Christ’s return. But I for one want to focus less on the appalling and more on living the truth. Because unless the church has truth to offer, the seeking won’t know where to turn when they turn away from the false.