Resisting Fake News by Thinking, Building, Praying, Keeping, Waiting, and Being Merciful
We continue in Jude as he gives us instructions on how to resist the Fake News! folks by actively pursuing a game plan.
The first thing Jude told his readers to do to stand up for the beliefs was to think. If you take the time to learn how to check out what you are being taught, you will have taken the first step toward keeping from error. Thinking will go a long way in keeping us safe and secure in the arms of Jesus.
There are seven things that Jude told his readers that they should do in order to keep themselves from error! They should:
- build themselves in the faith;
- pray in the Holy Spirit;
- keep yourselves in the love of God;
- wait for the mercy of Jesus;
- be merciful on the doubters;
- snatch some from the fire;
- and show mercy mixed with fear.
The doing of these seven things would make his readers and you as a reader and student of Jude keep yourself from error. God has provided instructions for us to follow when we feel like we have been deceived or we are not quite sure of the deception. With so much going on in today’s Christian circles, one cannot be too careful. Knowing and practicing the following seven items will go along way in keeping you from error.
Building your Faith: Jude 20-23
But you, The word you here is emphatic and plural. This is not a specific you but all the members of a community of faith together. I realize that this idea of the plural you in this and other texts is a difficult idea for readers to hear. After all, it is most common when someone says to you “can you take out the trash?” They are addressing a specific individual. Because of that common usage in English, we read our English Bibles with that at the forefront of our mind and would most likely read Jude 20 as being specifically addressed to you as you read the text. But that is not the case. Because the word you here is plural in Greek, it is not being addressed to you specifically, but to the whole of the group of individuals that makes up a community of which you are a member. There is no doubt in the minds of the readers that Jude is writing to them as a community. Dear friends is identical to verse 17, although the NIV translation leaves the word you in that verse.
Build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Earlier in his book Jude told his readers to “contend for the faith” (3). Now he tells them to “build themselves up in the most holy faith.” As we discovered in verse 3, faith meant the teachings of the missionaries that are recorded as a part of the Second Testament. So, to build yourself up in the faith is equal to knowing and practicing what Scripture says. By the way, reading Bible snippets doesn’t count! As an example, a part of building yourself is having on the armor of God (Eph. 6.10). To not have God’s armor on means certain defeat for the Jesus follower when attacked by the enemy. On the other hand, to have on the armor when we should have on the dress of a bride would be to be prepared to fight instead of celebrating.
Building ourselves up in the faith belongs to each of us. We cannot pass the responsibility to others. Find out where you can get informed and study the Scriptures. When you find a place, find another person to enter into the process with you. Here are a couple of places online:
Maybe you could research where you can go and become better informed on how the Bible fits together; what its central message is; how it applies to your community of faith and you in the twenty-first century. These are important aspects of becoming a maturing believer. By the way, we never outgrow the need to mature as a Jesus follower. Remember, this is not an overnight express item. Getting more grounded in the faith is something that you should set as a goal for your life. Don’t wait. Do It Now! Remember, we are not talking about you as an individual, but you in a community of faith. A community of faith has many and varied constructions. Be creative, don’t think all communities are those that meet at the corner of walk and don’t walk with a pastor and congregation facing each other and the pastor doing most if not all the talking.
And pray in the Holy Spirit. This phrase has usually been interpreted to mean prayer that is in the power and wisdom of the Spirit; or prayer in communion with the Holy Spirit; or praying by the direction of the Holy Spirit. While all of these may be honorable goals, it is not what this passage means. For those of you reading this who hold a presupposition that the gifts or gracelets of the Spirit disappeared with the finalizing of Scripture, the following will be difficult for you to deal with. My encouragement to you is that you change glasses for a moment, take a look at the possibility of this interpretation, and think through it before you either throw it away or embrace it. Remember, all these instructions are given to a community of faith not specific to individuals.
The phrase in the Spirit in early Christian literature frequently meant to be in the control of the Spirit (Matt. 22.43; Mark 12.36; Luke 2.26, 4.1: Acts 19.21; Rom. 8.9; 1 Cor. 12.3). With reference to prayer, it indicated charismatic prayer in which words are given by the Spirit for the prayer to say. Prayer in the Spirit includes, but is not limited to, prayer in tongues. Praying as used here indicates that the ones praying will receive some direct benefit from the prayer. According to Paul, speaking in tongues edified the one who was speaking. I believe that Jude is saying the same thing. Keeping yourself and a community of faith from error may include the God-given ability to pray in tongues.
Today this is often called prayer language. To pray in tongues is foreign to many people in the church today. Speaking in tongues has received some very bad press and those who speak in tongues have often abused this privilege. However, throwing out the baby with the bath wash is never a suitable alternative to abuse. I believe that every believer has the right to speak in tongues as part of his or her Christian experience. There are many fillings in the Spirit; one of them may have the manifestation of tongues. Those of you who have been taught that this is no longer available today and use passages like do all speak in tongues? (1 Cor. 12.30) as a way of saying that even if it was for today, not all could do it, have missed the meaning of the passage quoted from 1 Corinthians. The Corinthian passage at the conclusion of Chapter 12 is in the middle of a longer contextual passage about when the church comes together. The answer to the question “do all speak in tongues” is “No, all do not speak in tongues.” The context, however, provides us with the answer where this “no” is given. It is when Jesus followers come together. If everyone spoke in tongues when they gathered, it would be mass confusion. So Paul said that when the gathering occurs that all do not speak in tongues. He is not speaking to the issue of all being qualified to speak in tongues by virtue of being a Jesus follower, only that all should not speak in tongues at the same time when they meet together.
Keep yourselves in God’s love. The readers of Jude are told that they should keep themselves in the sphere of God’s love. The idea is to be surrounded by the love of God. What is the love of God that we are supposed to keep ourselves surrounded by?
It is seeking the highest good for a person no matter what has been done or said against us. We must learn to be sincere, innocent, generous, practical, forbearing, forgiving, restoring, and controlling our behavior in regard to other brothers and sisters. This is an on-going process in our lives. We must seek God’s help to keep ourselves from error by keeping ourselves surrounded by his love.
As you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life —No one likes to be told to wait. It is not a pleasing word in anyone’s ear. Yet, Jude said that his readers can keep themselves from error if they will be patient for the mercy that will bring them eternal life. This term wait was used in Early Christianity to describe the hope of the future, which was the Second Coming of Jesus. It was not a passive action. Keeping yourself from error occurs by learning to be patient—in mercy. While we are living eternal life now, there still is the gift of eternal life to be bestowed in the future. Again we run into the Second Testament’s now but not yet of the Kingdom of God. We have eternal life, but the fullness of that life awaits the Second Coming.
Be merciful to those who doubt. There are a lot of doubters in the church as well as in the world to which we as the church have been sent. In the church that Jude was writing to, there were those who doubted that they had made the right decision in following Jesus and the words of the Fake News! teachers sounded so liberating to them. For this group of people, Jude says that the reader should have mercy. We all find ourselves from time to time with doubts in our minds concerning Christianity and living with its directions. We may need others to come alongside us and have mercy. At the same time when we find strength, we share the same mercy with others who may doubt. You can keep yourself from error by being sensitive to the needs of others and show mercy when doubt is close to overcoming them.
The story of Thomas in the Gospel of John is an excellent model to follow. If we are ready to pounce on every doubter with a get-tough attitude, we will lose more wars than we win. When Fake News! teachers face off the church and bring doubt to believers, keeping yourself from error means having mercy on the fallen and stretching out a helping hand in their time of need.
Snatch others from the fire: It is a risky business to get close to a fire. There is always the possibility of burning oneself. Remember, these people who have followed the Fake News! teachers were brothers and sisters. One will risk anything to save or “rescue” them from destruction. Being a Jesus follower means to be ready at any moment to risk snatching and saving one’s brother or sister from destruction. This set of words is one of the most difficult in the book of Jude. You will find many different translations of this text.
The Jesus followers who have heard the Fake News! are responsible to try and help those entrapped with Fake News! by saving them (both teacher and student) from the tragedy of following the message the Fake News! with which teachers have seduced them. Jude’s remedy for the Fake News! teachers and their adherents are not banishments from the community of faith, but deliverance from the harm, the ruin, and loss they have chosen to live into.
You can keep yourself from error by actively snatching and saving those who are in the fire. Fire is a metaphor for destruction. The people in the fire have already begun to follow these Fake News! teachers. Their lives have been affected by the teaching they have followed. The deceptive Fake News! has sucked them into a dangerous position. Their decision to follow appears to have been made with a knowledge of the consequences of their action. The blind have led others to become blind and those who are being blinded have no sense that they have been led down a dangerous path of destruction.
Jesus followers should reach into the fire are at risk of being burned themselves in order to rescue those who are there. In short, the readers are left with the option of taking action and rescuing those who have drifted into the fire by following the teaching of the Fake News! teachers or letting them be destroyed. It is a risky business to get close to the fire. There is always the possibility of being burned. Remember, these people who have followed the Fake News! teachers were their brothers and sisters who were living as a community of Jesus followers. The point Jude is making is that we might want to learn to risk everything to save or rescue our brothers and sisters from ultimate destruction. You keep yourself from error by being ready at any moment to risk snatching and saving your brother or sister from the wreckage caused by following the teaching of these proclaimers of Fake News!
To others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. In this sentence, there is an additional suggestion given: the rescuers should be showing mercy. In the above passage, the reader was to focus on those who were wavering. Here the reader has jumped into the fire to rescue some of those who have fallen in. In their attempt to rescue, there is a great risk of falling into the temptation of following these Fake News! teachers and their teachers. Jude warned his readers to mix their mercy with fear, fear of falling themselves. In short, he wanted them not to be so overconfident that the end result would be that the rescuer would need rescuing. The way to maintain the fear that Jude speaks of is hating even the clothing stained by the corrupted flesh. This is a metaphor that suggests that the rescuer should despise the sin of the one needing rescuing and stay away from it.
On others have mercy while being aware of their sin and not falling into it: Knowledge is liberating! You can keep yourself from being contaminated by the “sin” of believing the Fake News! by knowing what the sin of those you are rescuing can do to you. Thus, you love the sinner and hate the sin.