The book of Jude warns of many things but wraps up with one of my all-time favorite scripture verses reassuring me that Jesus is able to keep me through this fleeting, albeit sometimes challenging life and present me to God without sin. When all is said and done, Christ utterly and eternally triumphs, inviting me to do the same alongside Him. Now that is reason for rejoicing, indeed!
However, another couple of verses from this same author have been pricking my conscience lately. It is a call to show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. To be gracious toward those who hesitate in believing the reality of this God-story that, in many ways, does seem too good to be true. Even though it is.
Verses 22 and 23 encourage believers in Christ with the following directive:
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (NLT)
The Message by Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way:
Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin.
There are many folks who “hesitate in the faith,” and I have joined them far more times than I care to admit. Each of us must journey the path to God for himself, and each of us has struggles uniquely his own. Some obstacles seem glaringly obvious, while others are much more cunning in their masquerade to pull us from the truth that is found in God’s Word.
A plethora of lies tempt us to leave the path of salvation and walk in ways that dishonor our Savior, and many of us still struggle with sins, neglecting the power given us to overcome our former way of living. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know this new nature in Jesus is free for the taking, yet sometimes difficult to grasp. And even harder to hold onto.
What do we do when we encounter fellow-Christians whose spiritual fruit appears less than appealing? The world would tell us not to judge, that tolerance is the only thing demanded of us. Others would say to judge the person only by their seeming less-than-ripe or rotting spiritual fruit, never mind if their heart is wavering back and forth seeking firm footing on which to stand. But Jude points us to a better way as he encourages us to show mercy while exerting effort to stop the person from sinning any longer.
We are encouraged to be patient with folks who are faltering as they hesitantly test the waters of faith. I daresay we’ve all had our own shortcomings of belief ourselves, which is a good reminder to be gentle and kind in our dealings with others. We are not to ignore or overlook the sin that is obviously a part of their lives, but rather, we are to pursue those who are wandering, tenderly seeking them out instead of writing them off. Welcoming them with open arms and an open heart of acceptance and love, the same as we have received from Jesus.
Hate the evil acts of sin, yes. But always, always love the people who are trapped in them. They are making these unwise choices because they have been tricked, deceived by the enemy of their souls. We would never punish a blind man for stumbling over a rock he did not see, so in the same way, we are called to be gentle in our dealings with those who are still struggling to find light in the darkness. Indeed, may we be ones who introduce them to it.
I pray we follow Jude’s directives and live a life of love as recipients of such undeserved grace at the hand of our Lord. Let kindness rule our hearts as we partner with Christ to lead the way to salvation in His name. May our light shine to illuminate the darkness as we patiently allow the eyes of others to adjust to this gift of God-life for all.
May we tread carefully, navigating the path between the weak and the willful with caution and with great love.
After all, sin is the only thing God hates.
May we follow His lead.