Why Every Church Should Read Jude
When was the last time you heard a sermon on the book of Jude at your church?
Seldom read, the book of Jude is about those “who pervert the grace of our God” (Jude 4, emphasis added). It revolves largely around sexual immorality (which certainly applies to the modern world and church), but it is also raising the much larger issue of holiness (3, 11, 20-21).
Grace and holiness are two words difficult for us to hold in the same hand.
Churches of Christ have had an on-again-off-again relationship with grace. When our movement started in the late 1700s and early 1800s, we were the people who wanted the whole world to experience God’s grace. But we lost sight of that goal. So much so, that many of us grew up in Churches of Christ where grace was almost a dirty word. We did, however, have a very clear concept of holiness (very narrowly defined). You wouldn’t find us dancing, for example (wink, wink)! But then, time passed, and we swung back into grace. Many of you can probably remember the first sermon you heard on grace. How it felt like coming up for air after nearly drowning. You savored every breath of it. And then … you went to your school dance. But alas, you still didn’t know how to dance. The curse of Churches of Christ!
If you are reading this blog, I suspect you go to a gracious church. A church where grace is the norm, the topic of nearly every sermon, small group study, and children’s Bible class. Jude says he wanted to write a letter to his church about the grace of “the salvation we share” (3).
But he has to write a different letter.
Here’s what Jude wants to know: What do you do in a church of grace when someone is sleeping around? When someone is racist? What do you say to the young person who is exploring their sexuality? What do you say to someone who is abusing his wife? What do you say to the one who medicates with alcohol every night? Or the one whose temper is so short? Or to the endless gossip? What do you say to the one caught up in pornographic addiction? To the one cheating her business partners? Or cheating on tests? What does a gracious church do?
Jude’s church is so gracious that they do nothing. And Jude says that’s not actually grace. That’s something perverted. “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (4, emphasis added).
If they were truly a gracious church, they would “be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (22-23).
Notice that grace and mercy don’t exclude congregational intervention for the sake of holiness. They demand it.
Jude is worth reading—as an individual, but more so as a church. In Jude we catch a glimpse of what God’s grace really is (and not what we’ve told ourselves it is). Grace is not a license to sin; it is the power that moves the church toward a holy God. So we are most gracious as a church when we help each other be most holy.