Confronting Fake News!
Jude quickly informs his readers about the purpose of his correspondence. Verses 3-16 form a specific section in which Jude transmits his reasons for writing. In this section (3-16), Jude explains to his readers why he felt compelled to write to them at that specific time (3-4). He then describes and condemns the Fake News! teachers who had somehow made their way into this Christian fellowship (5-16).
The Letters Occasion: Jude 3
What To Do: Jude 3
Jude begins this section with an intimate word. He calls his readers dear friends. The words dear friends could be translated by my dear friends, my dear brothers and sisters, or my dear fellow Jesus followers. There may be some indication that his readers who have become purveyors of Fake News! could have been his close friends or even converts whom he had led to becoming Jesus followers. If this line of thinking is correct, Jude must have felt betrayed by them. In colloquial terms, they were turncoats or to pull a name from American history, Benedict Arnold, a traitor, a high-ranking traitor.
Jude now tells his audience that he had planned a letter to them—although I was very eager to write to you. The phrase is translated with the word eager, which indicates the continual eagerness of the author to communicate with his friends. The word also carries a meaning of strong desire and purpose. A person’s eagerness is action as well as wish. Jude had a constant concern for the people God had put into his life as a functioning pastor. He was endlessly thinking about them. He had been eager to write a planned letter but changed his mind. The present infinitive to write suggests that he had made diligent preparation to write to them. Jude displayed by his choice of words that his planned letter was not a mere letter of greeting. He was going to share some thoughts apropos to their common salvation.
It is strange how often something with evil intent finds its way into the life of the ecclesia and instead of receiving a word of edification, we are left with changing our direction to take care of the problem.
This preparation to explain about the salvation we share reflected concern in Jude’s mind for the further knowledge of the saints concerning their new life in Jesus. As a functioning missionary, he was going to take pen in hand and remind them of this great gift of salvation. Jesus followers need to be reminded from time to time about the gift of salvation they have received from God. We often remand our knowledge to a select set of metaphors about salvation like being saved or being born again. In doing so, we become anemic in our life with Christ. Salvation came to mean to the early Jesus followers: the eschatological deliverance that would be accomplished and fulfilled by God at the close of this present evil age that had broken into their present life. It is interesting that Jude sees salvation as common, i.e., that which we all share. No one in the body of Christ is more saved than any other person in the body of Christ.
Jude used the connective but to alert the reader that he wants to contrast his previous statement with the following statement. In this sentence, Jude says that he had one set of thoughts that he was going to write, but he made a choice to write to his readers about another subject.
The following story reflects some of the tensions that I have had personally with confronting Fake News! In Jude’s case, he was going to talk about one subject, i.e., their common salvation, but found it necessary to confront their allegiance to Fake News! In my case, as you will see, I turned a different direction. But as I state at the end of the story below, I wished that I had not.
When I was a sophomore and junior in high school, that seems like only a few days or two ago, the rave on TV was “The Naked City.” Each of its episodes ended with the iconic line: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them” Having lived in the institutional church (IC) for over a half-century and witnessed its story and have seen firsthand how Fake News! causes pain and sorrow among its attendees, I thought I would tell you one of my own personal stories as a reflection of Jude’s story in his book.
Donna Faith and I arrived in Kansas City, MO, in the late afternoon of November 15, 1971, to the cool temperature of 40 degrees. We settled in and I watched Monday Night Football where the San Diego Chargers beat St. Louis Cardinals in a nail biter. I thought about my dad who loved Monday Night Football and was probably watching it at the same time. We retired in the late evening and the next day we arrived at a church in Kansas City where we were scheduled to have a 10-day series of meetings. We met the pastor and began to unload some of our equipment; he left to go to the parsonage next door and returned a few minutes later. When he came into the front of the church building, he stood for a moment and then said, “Winn, I have some bad news for you. I just received a call from your brother-in-law and he told me that your dad passed away early this morning. I have your brother-in-law’s phone number, he wants you to call.”
I was stunned, to say the least. We had visited just a few weeks before and had a great time with the family. I returned the call and found out all the details and then made travel arrangements to get back to Florida for his funeral. We repacked the car to leave in the parking lot of the church and flew back to Florida. How that happened is another story.
In the middle of the next week, we flew back to KC to hold the 10-day meeting that had been postponed. Back in the foyer of the church building where I had received the news about my dad’s death only a few days before, we were putting out some of our records. The pastor came along while we were finishing up and when he saw the display, he abruptly told me that I had to take it down, that he didn’t allow any merchandise to be sold in his church. I was shocked, to say the least. He gave me all of his fundamentalist reasons. I listened as patiently as I could. Finally, I told him that I didn’t think this series of meetings would be helpful to him or his members because somewhere along the line I would most likely be crossing his theological line. I knew that crossing a fundamentalist line would force the person whose line had been crossed to react. I shared with him that he would most likely be offended by some of the things that I would say and that while I believed that it would be helpful for his parishioners to hear and interact with, he would be very uncomfortable with the information that his members would hear and most likely would complain abut to him or ask for clarification from him.
So after about 30 minutes of discussion and no movement in the discussion, I suggested that we should probably move on toward our next set of meeting dates. I called a local pastoring friend to get off my chest the rejection. He told me that he thought that I had probably made the right decision.
We reloaded our car and pulled out of Kansas City with my mind full of questions, the largest one was why I didn’t discover this before I left for my father’s funeral because Donna and I could have spent a few days longer with my mom. To say the least, I was angry and conflicted about this event.
What does this story have to do with Fake News! That’s simple to me. Fake News! has no basis in fact, but is presented as being factually accurate; in this case the Fake News! was fundamentalism. The pastor’s belief was so integrated with the Fake News! of fundamentalism; he had lived and breathed this theological stance for so many years and passed it along to the members of his congregation.
While I knew it was my job to confront such non-thoughtful ideas, on this occasion, I backed down largely because I was not in a good place emotionally because of the circumstances of having just lost my dad. However, having thought about this incident over the years, I wish I had pressed through and delivered some healing news to his congregation to help them unravel from the theological depression that becomes a lifestyle with those who are constantly cajoled, deceived, seduced, and entrapped with such Fake News!
There are millions of stories in the institutional church and those rejecting the institutional church. This has been one of them.
Something or someone had alerted Jude to a problem that took on such magnitude in Jude’s mind that his attention shifted. He changed and fixed his attention on addressing the obstacle that had received the spotlight. It seems that he received news of the activities of the “Fake Newsers” and so he decided to write immediately a letter of warning to a group of communities of faith and condemnation of the teachers and their teachings. Condemnation is what I wished I had done in Kansas City all those years ago. For Jude, these false teachers were apostates. They had turned their backs on the faith. They were teaching heresies and doctrines of demons. As Jude picked up his pen to write, he believed that true Jesus followers everywhere in the communities of faith must be warned at once and informed of the evil that was prophesied earlier and was then being fulfilled. That same urgent attitude should be held to today. But, alas, it seems ChurchWorld just goes along with whatever the latest progressive idea is instead of standing up and saying: “No, we can’t go there and this is why!”
He told his readers that I felt compelled to write. Jude was the servant of Jesus for this very crisis in the early church. We are never any place by accident that God can not use us for his purposes. He could take a stand against the individuals and what they were teaching because he was available to heal the fracture that had occurred in these local communities of faith. He found it necessary to move at once, as soon as the news reached him to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. When Jude said that he was to urge his audience that indicates that they needed to contend continually. This was not just a small conflict for the current Jesus followers to fight against but for them and us, it is a lifelong battle. The way he uses the word urge in this text alerts the readers that they are to initiate the action of fighting against Fake News! Why? Because: a Jesus follower then and now cannot afford to sit back and be passive. By the way, the word “you” in this text is plural, which means that it was not written to a specific individual but to “all” of them and hence “all of us.
Jude’s eagerness to write and the urgency with which these Jesus followers were to respond were of equal value in his mind. He wanted these cohorts of followers to wake up to what was happening to them and contend strenuously for what they had been taught. He wanted them to take the offensive position and fight, standing for the teaching that was being assaulted by the false teachers. He appealed to them to realize that the adversary desired to take away their present confidence in what they had been taught by the first missionaries and give them something counterfeit in its place to accept and follow. We might all remember that the enemy and those who he uses has a plan for our life: destruction. They were urged to contend for the faith. Jude wanted to provoke them to pursue this calling. To contend meant for them to defend their beliefs and retain them. Jude provided a picture for his readers of becoming soldiers of Jesus who must fight in this terrible conflict. They must defend the faith and retain it at all costs. To contend is to enter into a demanding and severe struggle, a conflict that will bring physical and mental combat. It is at once agonizing and traumatic.
Jesus followers must remember that there is a war going on! When Jesus invaded the kingdom of Satan, the battle heated up. The conflict is cosmic. The battlefield is earth. The vessels and victims are human beings.
Remember, the rule of God has invaded this present evil age in the presence of Jesus. The first coming of Jesus brought a new phase of the kingdom of God to earth in all its power and glory. The next and last coming of Jesus will culminate what the first coming began. The church now lives between the first coming and the second coming of Jesus. While living in this position, we are at war.
Dr. James Kallas has written:
A war is going on! Cosmic war! Jesus is the divine invader sent by God to shatter the strength of Satan. In that light, the whole ministry of Jesus unrolls. Jesus has one purpose—to defeat Satan. He takes seriously the strength of the enemy.”[ref]James Kallas, The Real Satan, 60.[/ref]
Jude will later address how Jesus followers are to contend for the faith. We will get to that information anon.
Jude did not tell his readers that they should rise up and whip these folks who were proclaiming Fake News! and all would be well. He told them that they could never go to sleep like a soldier because the conflict was continuous. The action assigned to the Greek word (present tense of the infinitive) that is translated contend points out that contending against Fake News! has no end. The dispute with those propagating Fake News! goes on and on during our whole lifetime. Gear up!
There is a definite article with the noun faith. It is “the” faith as opposed to the Fake Faith that they were being offered. The word faith has several meanings. In Jude 3 faith means the body of truth that all Jesus followers had come to accept by this time in history. It is the message that demands faith/belief (cf. Gal. 1.23, 1 Tim. 4.1). There is no indication as to the specific content of the faith, which implies that the first readers knew exactly what Jude was referring to. For you and me as current readers of Jude, it is safe to infer that “the faith” is the teaching of the writers as recorded in the New Testament. For a different opinion on the meaning of faith see Richard J. Bauckham’s commentary of Jude.[ref] Richard J. Bauckham. Jude, 2 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 50, Word Books, 1983. 36.[/ref]
The passive verbal phrase that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people reveals that God is the one who determined the contents of the Christian faith and that he gave it to followers of Jesus to accept and transmit without change. The content is not to be denied nor distorted. By the time of Jude’s writing, this set of beliefs had been delivered. The action of the word indicates that the “delivering” had occurred once and was delivered by an outside source, in this case, God. The faith was given for all time. It has a perpetual effect. The giving will never be repeated. This should be a warning light for all Jesus followers that the Christian faith is unchangeable. Every new doctrine that arises, even though its legitimacy may be plausibly asserted, is a false doctrine and is often seen in the Fake News! of the day. All claims to convey some additional revelation to that which has been given by God in this body of truth are false claims and must be rejected. The word saints reflect the First Testament designation of the Israelites as a people dedicated to God, a people who belong only to him and are dedicated to him of which the present followers are attached.
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