Thursday, May 7, 2015

The diversion

It was a trying time in the history of our country. One like no other.

I remember when I was middle school (or, as we called it then, junior high school) and I heard about Watergate. Are you too young to have experienced it? If so, surely you studied it in history classes. Over the course of about two years, we went from a back page story about a simple hotel burglary to a full-blown conspiracy that infected the top levels of our government. There were Congressional hearings. Special prosecutors. Resignations left and right. And finally, in an unprecedented scene, the President of the United States admitted his role and resigned.

Here's the thing about that period from June 17, 1972 to August 9, 1974: Our government could not focus on anything else. Every white house briefing was dominated by Watergate questions. No matter how much officials would try to talk about the economy or national security, the questions came back to Watergate. No other topics could compete.

This is the dilemma we see in the little book of Jude, the next to last book of the Bible. It's a short letter, only 25 verses. When we think of the New Testament, the gospel, and Jesus, we think of love mercy and grace. And like other New Testament writers, Jude really wanted to focus on those things. But alas, the church was facing its own little Watergate...and it had to be addressed.
Beloved, even though I was very anxious to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were destined for condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
  - Jude 3-4, ESV; emphasis mine

See what I mean? He really wanted to write an upbeat letter. But there were things that needed to be said. Things that were corrupting the good. Two things in particular:
  • The idea that grace allows people to do whatever they want, turning it into a license for sexual immorality, and 
  • The idea that Jesus was just a good teacher, one way among many to God.
It's right there in the passage. This passage from the New Testament, which so many want to turn into a one note song: "Judge not."

The gospel is a wonderful thing, the best news ever. All of us who follow Jesus want to spend all out time proclaiming the love, mercy and grace that God has shown us through the cross. But there comes a time when we have to contend for the faith. So let me ask: do these two poisons sound familiar to you? Are they not the essence of some of the biggest hot buttons in our country right now?

The book of Jude reminds us that there are times that call for a firm response. Love is not waving cheerfully to our friends as they head toward a cliff. Jude says that sometimes love means having to take a stand. As he says in verses 22-23a: "Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire."

Friends, you do not know how much I wish we could just talk about the gospel. But the metaphorical reporters keep asking about Watergate. So we've got to tell the truth.

That's love...which is so much greater than tolerance.

Which leads Jude back to where he wanted to go...
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25, ESV)

No comments:

Post a Comment