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. ~ Jude 22-23
Jude is a short letter that you’ll find toward the back of your Bible just before Revelation. Blink while you’re turning the page and you’ll miss it. By his own admission, Jude had hoped to write to encourage those Christians he knew in the “salvation we all share”; yet, made aware of the danger of false teachers creeping into the church he changed his mind and wrote a word of warning and caution, urging the church to reject the false teachers (3-4).
After some harsh words directed at those who corrupt the gospel of Jesus, he encouraged his friends to stay firm in faith, unite together, and build up one another (17-21); then he spoke to another task: sharing the gospel with those who waivered in faith and those who had not yet come to follow Jesus.
In these circumstances he called for both mercy and swift action. People struggling with belief and doubt don’t need harsh words or strong rebukes. Instead they need to feel the love of others, gently calling them back to Jesus and encouraging them in his word. Yet others who don’t know Jesus teeter on the brink of judgment.
Jude affirmed that hell is a real place of torment and that we should do all we can to stand in the way of those walking a path into the flames. Yet in doing so, we must be careful with our own lives. We have been called away from sin. When we as God’s children slip into the sins of the old, dying nature, we still have an advocate in Jesus—his righteousness continues to cover us (1 John 2:1-2). But we are to strive to be examples of the freedom, joy, and victory that comes from following Jesus as we walk away from sin.
Sometimes we find ourselves tempted to join in with the sins of others around us. That is why Jude said “show mercy, be cautious, and hate the sin.” The hatred here is never to be directed at the person whose life is defined by sin—that’s the place for mercy. The hatred is to be at the sin itself and the temporal damage and eternal ruin it causes. To hate it is to reject it for our own lives. To hate it is to do all we can to flee from the temptation if we feel pulled down.
After all, the goal is rescue, and we won’t be effective in taking the lifeline of Christ to others if we ourselves get caught in sin’s undertow. So, share the gospel, evangelize, tell about Jesus, and do so with mercy towards the wavering and the wayward. Yet keep watch on your own life so you’re able to give true hope and not find yourself dragged down in the struggle.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.