Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ; may mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Jude 1, 2

 

This is a beautiful greeting. It is the sort of thing that anyone would be delighted to hear and to read. It would seem that a person would have to be in a very bad place to not want to have mercy, peace, and love granted to them in abundance; yet, this is not the beginning of a casual, calm and gentle letter. As the brother of James, the great leader of the early church, and the lesser known brother of Jesus, Himself, Jude had been around the world of people who lived in the Christian faith. After a life spent in opposition to Jesus, he had come to accept Christ as his Savior and Lord. Now he was witnessing the destructive effect of the work of leaders who had taken people away from God’s truth. These were people who brought heresies and lies into the assembly of faith. Their wisdom was that of the world, and they counseled people in a manner that lead them to engage in sinful and destructive behaviors.

 

Witnessing this made Jude’s blood boil, and he could not remain silent. So, he speaks out about what he knows to be God’s position on the situation at hand. We are to be on guard against allowing even the slightest taste of sinful compromise cross our lips. The church needs to protect itself from the erosion and the waste that ensues when we become entangled in battles over secular issues that are a part of a condemned world order. Yet, we must know God’s Word and stay true to it so that we, individually and together as the body, will not follow our culture in its headlong and willful rush to death in the Lord’s judgment. This is a hard course, and like Jude, we become angry and want to rise up against all that brings evil into our paths. Yet, it seems important to pay close attention to everything that Jude did say.

 

He certainly does warn against following people who engage in sexual immorality, are contentious with those in authority and with systems of rule, are greedy, and are out for personal gain. Jude states that these people and their behavior will destroy the beautiful unity of our worship as a body. Their presence brings about a form of destruction that is like shipwreck, and they parch the soul with the dryness of drought. Their false light leads straight to eternal darkness. However, what is remarkable to me is what Jude tells us to do about all of this. He instructs us to remain strong in our faith through Spirit led and filled prayer. We are to position ourselves in the center of the love of Jesus that saves and preserves us. We are to do these things so that we can, in turn, show mercy to those who oppose Christ, and through exhibiting His supernatural love in our world, we can bring some of them into relationship with God. This is dangerous work, for as we engage in it, we are placed in very close proximity to the deceptiveness of the sin. In this we are to remain focused on Jesus so that we can, like Him, love all people totally while hating all sin with every ounce of our being.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1: 12

 

Let’s start off with a little dictionary work. Now steadfast is not a word that I use very often; so, I want to know what it actually means. The definition of this word is “Resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.” When reading James I get the impression that he had encountered a lot of trials, troubles, struggles, and pain during his years. He expends many words in discussing why it is not easy to follow Christ; yet, he also explains quite graphically why it is all worth the cost. He saw his mother, Mary, go through the agony of the death of her firstborn son, Jesus. Then James witnessed the miracle of Christ’s resurrection, and sometime after that he surrendered his life entirely to following Christ. Now he was putting his life on the line regularly for the sake of Christ’s gospel.

 

So, for James being steadfast was never easy, but it was also the only thing that he could see himself doing. For even when James was among the most outspoken of opponents, Jesus loved him and sacrificed all for the sake of His brother’s salvation from a sin-filled life and an eternity of condemnation. To James facing into the angry venom of people who would not accept the truth of God’s grace and redemptive love was just a part of his journey of faith. Hearing the threats of violence against him and those he loved and even feeling the blows of injustice landing on his body were a price that he was willing to pay. It was all worth it for there was life to be shared in the journey, and there was glory to enter at its end.

 

If James were standing here today, he would tell us that some of these days will seem very long indeed. There will be times when loss is far greater than our perception of gain. The body of a follower of Christ will need to endure the emotional and physical abuse that our world will delight in giving to it, and our hearts will be broken as people we love and care about refuse to turn to Christ. Yet, he would also say that every laborious step and each tortured hour is more than worth it. For Christ is with us through and in it all. He never leaves our side, and His word of truth always prevails over the world. I know that the crown of life is a reference to the restoration that comes in eternity, but I also believe that Christ grants to all who follow Him the blessing that is a life today that is fully alive. This is the crown of glory that God grants to His people.