But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 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.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:17-25 ESV)
Here is some great advice from the early church to us. I don’t think they really believed they would be writing to people living 20 centuries later. I’m pretty sure they imagined the end was near. But God doesn’t mark time the way we do. I can’t confirm this from Scripture, but I think the “End Times” are every day since Jesus’ Ascension. If we don’t live as if that is true, we won’t be watching and waiting as he told us.
Sure enough, there are scoffers among us today. But they’re not where you might think they are. Jude tells us: they are in the church. Oh, they’re not in that other church – the other evangelical church some of “our folks” defected to last year. And don’t be jealous of them (whoever they are); some of their folks defected to that new church plant, the one that meets in the cocktail lounge at the Ramada Inn. I heard they were having baptisms in the river like Holy Rollers. And they don’t sing the old hymns or the good worship songs we all know. Their pastor doesn’t even wear a tie when he preaches. Bah!
As I said, there are scoffers among us. And isn’t it interesting what “ungodly passions” turn out to be? Sure, lust and greed are ungodly. No question of that. But sniping at other ministries because they do things differently, or talking with other members about some excess, sin, or deficiency someone in our own church has is just as bad. “It is these that cause divisions.” People who talk like that are worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. The trick today, as it was for Jude, is to carefully highlight that these things are sin without discussing among ourselves how Mr. Jones is one of these people. The Holy Spirit is able to reach Mr. Jones quite nicely without our having a committee meeting to help him do it.
What is the remedy for scoffing? Mercy.
Mercy is how we build ourselves up in the most holy faith. Mercy is how we are able to pray at all. Mercy is how we keep ourselves in the love of God. Paul admonishes us in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” and in Colossians 2:6-7, “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
How did I receive Christ? God had mercy on me. I was wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I had rebelled against the love he offered. I had rejected the gift of his Son. “But God, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:1)
In just this same way, the activity I should be about every day the Lord waits to take me home is: mercy. I am waiting for God’s ultimate mercy (this life is hard, the next one won’t be). And so I must exercise mercy wherever I see the opportunity. When a brother or sister behaves badly when we are together, it is a sign that they doubt the mercy of Christ for their life. I must offer them the same compassion Jesus offered me. Others are standing far off. They have not yet heard of the mercy of Christ. I must snatch them from the flames, as surely as I would pull the hand of my grandson away from a stove. I must love them, and bring them gently to the foot of the Cross where I now (and continually) receive mercy. And when a brother or sister does something publically that is sin, I should treat it with the embarrassment I would experience if they had paraded their underwear around the church on a stick. I will not join the parade of those who gossip and lie and slander and then refuse mercy to others because they refuse mercy to themselves.
There’s a great benediction at the end of Jude’s letter. Living a life of mercy isn’t easy. You have to attend to the little things that have the potential of taking life or blessing life. But you know what? God is able to do what you and I aren’t able to do. And to the pratfall comic who continually finds himself slipping on the banana peel of life, it is a great mercy when God grabs hold of my arm and says, “don’t be afraid… I’ve got you.”