Why should you defend your faith? Can you defend your faith? In today’s Grace hour episode we address the issue of the defense of the faith.
Marked by humility and a firebrand straightforwardness reminiscent of Jesus is Jude, the author of the penultimate book of the Bible. Jude makes a strong appeal for the defense of the faith. This takes on immense proportions when we realize that such an appeal was issued not to a few scholars but, to use Jude’s own words, “To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for[a] Jesus Christ.” This is no different from Peter’s appeal to all likewise designated to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
I submit to us that if this was taught and practiced as a fundamental aspect of our discipleship the skeptics would have far less reason to generalize Christians as mindless, unthinking bigots. This is one of the ways in which we show that we do love the Lord our God with all our mind. Those who insist on emotional thrills as the defining mark of church attendance need to come to grips with Jude’s sole reason for writing his letter.
Jude describes himself in a manner which similar to Paul’s, establishes his sense of identity. Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James… This James has to be James the leader of the Jerusalem church, writer of the Epistle and the half brother of Jesus. So Jude would also be Jesus’ half brother. Hmmm so why not just say so? You would most likely have done it right? Jude steers clear of this temptation and sees himself as a servant of Jesus. We note a very similar approach taken by James. You see this thing called our ego? It is best kept in check by the embodiment of servanthood. I cannot stress it enough, Caribbean leaders in every sector need to be more mindful of the value of humility to effective leadership.
After a brief, but sincere greeting Jude gets straight to what was on his heart for his friends and brethren. He has surveyed the landscape and what he sees alarms him significantly, enough to sound a clarion call for alertness and action. Jude was walking in the spirit of the sons of Isaachar, he understood the times and knew what the church needed to do. I can’t help but ask to what extent is the average church engaged in such analysis? How willing are we to scrap the agenda, ditch the documented plan if and when we assess the current realities and recognize that a change of course is needed?
This kind of engagement is needed on an individual level as well. With our much busyness and our interconnectedness via social media and big data the disciplines of solitude, meditation and guidance have lost their relevance. Our lives may therefore be tottering out of control simply because we have no methodology of pausing to assess and reassess our direction.
In the absence of an intentional schedule of creating distance from the self to gain perspective on the self it is easy for what happened in the church in Jude’s day to happen to any church today or any individual’s life… deadly error creeps in under our nose.
Jude presents us with a clear call to treat with erroneous doctrine with the utmost urgency and seriousness. He leaves no room for vacillation on the matter. It must be exposed, denounced and opposed. In his treatment of the matter he sounds quite like his half brother Jesus as he took on the pernicious yeast of hypocrisy in the Pharisees. Let’s zoom in on the specific heresy that yanked Jude’s chain.
Jude confronts an internal threat similar to that which was challenged in 2 Peter. False teachers, whom Jude describes as having secretly entered as if by a side door, teaching by word and practice that Christian liberty and the Grace of God is a license for immorality. In the mind of Jude this is tantamount to denying Jesus. This is how the Message translation captures verse 4, “What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master.”
Let it be noted carefully for many among us are of the view that it is only if they speak saying ‘I deny Jesus’ that they are guilty of such. Living one’s life contrary to the teachings and ways of Jesus is just as culpable and certainly we are far more likely to be trapped in this way. The theological term for what Jude countered is antinomianism – the belief that Christians are under no obligation to follow the moral law as a rule of life, a persistent problem in the early church. It is what elicited Paul’s famously strongest of prohibitions “God Forbid!” in Romans chapter 6.
Interestingly it may be difficult to identify any preacher today pushing antinomianism yet it is certainly alive in the church. Again the evidence of this arises from the ways in which many church goers today operate with a duality that sees them wearing the trappings of holiness on the weekend for a few hours then living the rest of the week in conduct and attitudes that are no different from those who have made no claim to the Lordship of Jesus. There is ample evidence around us that we have cheapened grace, that we take God’s mercy for granted, that we are often highly presumptuous in our partaking of forbidden fruits. The Spirit of God is now asking us to examine whether we have been denying Jesus.
Ours is a highly religious society with many hiding under the veil of Christian or rating Jesus by virtue of the upbringing or their reading of a psalms or occasional church attendance. This same society, these same ones though are the ones who lift all manner of godless expressions of sexuality and idolatrous worship of mammon to new levels. Hear me friends, this kind of living in no way makes you a friend of Jesus. How about it though? Are you willing to move beyond a liking of Jesus to a surrender to his way? Please don’t abuse grace.