The little book of Jude probably isn't read very often and certainly isn't typically read as prophetic, but as I stumbled upon it the other night, I was stopped in my tracks in light of the current situation in the UMC. Reading through it was like reading a commentary on the recent decades, but especially the past couple months in our own parish.
I've copied the entire book here. It's only about a page and from the God's Word translation, which reads more easily than the New King James Version I typically use. I also added some of my own thoughts, much, much less important than God's words but hopefully relevant to our present circumstances.
From Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James. To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father, and who are kept safe for Jesus Christ. May mercy, peace, and love fill your lives!
Something great to keep in mind in the midst of hardship and struggles within the church--God's desire, in spite of our circumstances, is that we may be filled with mercy, peace, and love. Keep that in mind, dear brothers and sisters, no matter what. It's a God-given gift, especially in difficult times.
Dear friends, I had intended to write to you about the salvation we share. But something has come up. It demands that I write to you and encourage you to continue your fight for the Christian faith that was entrusted to God’s holy people once for all time.
Sometimes the plans we have for our church must change. We must be flexible to address concerns from without and from within. In Jude's case, he had to change the subject of his letter to address false doctrine that was creeping into the church and threatening the very deposit of faith that was permanently entrusted to the church.
In our case, we are reaching the culmination of a decades-long effort to move in a liberal/progressive/revisionist direction regarding human sexuality and the authority/interpretation ofScripture. Don't think this is a casual effort either. As Jude points out, it is a fight for the unchanging Christian faith the church has been given to safeguard. And like every fight, it is unpleasant.
Some people have slipped in among you unnoticed. Not long ago they were condemned in writing for the following reason: They are people to whom God means nothing. They use God’s kindness as an excuse for sexual freedom and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? It's the same story on a different day. God's grace is touted as the reason why we should change our beliefs despite clear teachings of Scripture and 2,000 years of consistent Christian interpretation and understanding of Scripture. "Love is love" sounds cute, but it doesn't agree with Scripture or church history. There will be more departures from the historic faith to come, if history in other denominations is any indicator of the future if the UMC.
I want to remind you about what you already know: The Lord once saved his people from Egypt. But on another occasion he destroyed those who didn’t believe. He held angels for judgment on the great day. They were held in darkness, bound by eternal chains. These are the angels who didn’t keep their position of authority but abandoned their assigned place. What happened to Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities near them is an example for us of the punishment of eternal fire. The people of these cities suffered the same fate that God’s people and the angels did, because they committed sexual sins and engaged in homosexual activities.
Yet, in a similar way, the people who slipped in among you are dreamers. They contaminate their bodies with sin, reject the Lord’s authority, and insult his glory. When the archangel Michael argued with the devil, they were arguing over the body of Moses. But Michael didn’t dare to hand down a judgment against the devil. Instead, Michael said, “May the Lord reprimand you!”
So Sodom and Gomorrah are guilty of more than "being inhospitable" as liberals try to convince us? Yes, of course they are. The 'strange flesh' that Jude writes about here has been understood as a reference to homosexuality for 2,000 years. You have to be pretty dishonest to explain it away or pretend that isn't so. You also have to argue against two millennia of consistent Christian understanding. Does anyone else think it's suspicious that no reputable theologians or scholars presented a different interpretation until after unbelieving society changed its opinion on sexuality? It's almost like the church is just chasing after the approval of the fallen world around it. Does anyone else think it's more than a tad bit arrogant to suggest that the church has gotten this wrong for 2,000 years until we were saved from our own errors by our recent revisionist theologians?
Whatever these people don’t understand, they insult. Like animals, which are creatures of instinct, they use whatever they know to destroy themselves. How horrible it will be for them! They have followed the path of Cain. They have rushed into Balaam’s error to make a profit. They have rebelled like Korah and destroyed themselves.
These people are a disgrace at the special meals you share with other believers. They eat with you and don’t feel ashamed. They are shepherds who care only for themselves. They are dry clouds blown around by the winds. They are withered, uprooted trees without any fruit. As a result, they have died twice. Their shame is like the foam on the wild waves of the sea. They are wandering stars for whom gloomy darkness is kept forever.
Furthermore, Enoch, from the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about them. He said, “The Lord has come with countless thousands of his holy angels. He has come to judge all these people. He has come to convict all these ungodly sinners for all the ungodly things they have done and all the harsh things they have said about him.”
Jude would never make it in our society with it's hyper-concern with not giving offense, questioning the faith of others, or being painfully honest. He's more concerned about people's salvation than being socially-acceptable to false teachers and the unbelieving culture.
Importantly, he not only describes their uncharitable behavior, un-Christian beliefs, and God's certain judgement upon them, he grieves for them and sincerely desires their repentance and restoration. May we, like Jude, seek the same for those with whom we disagree. This ultimately isn't about being right for right's sake, it's about safeguarding the faith of the church that people might be saved.
These people complain, find fault, follow their own desires, say arrogant things, and flatter people in order to take advantage of them.
Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you to expect: “In the last times people who ridicule God will appear. They will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who cause divisions. They are concerned about physical things, not spiritual things.
Been to any discernment meetings lately? Enough said.
Dear friends, use your most holy faith to grow. Pray with the Holy Spirit’s help. Remain in God’s love as you look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life.
Show mercy to those who have doubts. Save others by snatching them from the fire of hell. Show mercy to others, even though you are afraid that you might be stained by their sinful lives.
In spite of the 'fight' in which we now find ourselves, Jude rightly reminds us of several important things. Keep growing in your faith, despite the hostility and anger raging around you. Rely on the Spirit's aid, abide in God's love, and trust in Christ's mercy for your ultimate salvation. Be merciful to those who disagree, even though that mercy will certainly be met in return with vitriol, hostility, and anger.
God can guard you so that you don’t fall and so that you can be full of joy as you stand in his glorious presence without fault. Before time began, now, and for eternity glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Finally, trust in God's strength to guard you unto salvation and fill you with joy...even in the midst of the struggle. Go back to the beginning of this little letter, seeking to be filled with mercy, peace, and love. There's no way that's going to happen by trying to muster it up of yourself, it is entirely a gift of God to us, in spite of our efforts and sinfulness. Thanks be to God.
"Almighty God, You chose Your servant Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As he was faithful and zealous in his mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen." (adapted from the Lutheran Service Book)