Jude’s Call to Persevere

Last night, I went to see Just Mercy at the cinema. Do go if you get the chance. It may change your thinking forever.

The film is based on the real life story of young defence attorney Bryan Stevenson who fights to appeal the murder conviction of Walter McMillian and help others on death row find justice and mercy.

We all need mercy, we all need justice, and-perhaps-we all need some measure of unmerited grace. Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson has been shining a light on the injustices of the legal system in Alabama for the past thirty years. He has refused to be silenced. He has refused to back down. His commitment to justice for the poor is a lesson to us all.

In yesterday’s post Jude’s Message of Warning, we looked at those people among us who are seeking to undermine and lead us away from God’s truth. They offer a new seductive message that allows us to live comfortably as we desire with no thought for the challenge of Jesus’ teaching and life. Today, Jude’s call is for all believers to persevere in their quest for truth and justice, to stay grounded in the God of love and mercy – do you see why I mentioned Bryan Stevenson now?

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

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.  Jude 1:17-22

So here’s what that call to persevere looks like in practice:-

  • build yourselves up in your most holy faith

Our daily walk with God is not simply focused on looking out at what everyone else is doing and trying to fix/change other people. We have to start first with building ourselves up in our faith. The one person God has given you to care for and nurture for the whole of your life is you! Your relationship with Him matters as much as the next person’s. Faith is precious. It’s a gift to cherish. Spending time in the presence of God, whatever that looks like for you, builds you up: it’s not simply knowing about God, it’s so much more than that. It’s knowing God.

  • pray in the Holy Spirit

And so when we pray, we pray as if no one is listening (apart from God!). We don’t concern ourselves with the right words but with the true expression of what is in our hearts. And sometimes when words fail, the Spirit takes over, translating our tears and groans and sighs for us. Making space and time in our world for this personal connection/outpouring is vitally important.

  • keep yourselves in God’s love

God loves all of us all of the time. There’s no doubt about that. That never changes. But it is our responsibility to deliberately place ourselves within that love. By that, I mean that we live out our lives each day in the light of the knowledge that God loves us. Knowing that He loves us unconditionally will affect how we see ourselves and others. We are loved. We are enough. We have nothing to prove to anyone. Sometimes it will take a conscious effort to reject all those voices in the world around us that tell us otherwise, that tell us we will only be lovable if we do this or have that or wear the other. Staying rooted and grounded in the love of God is a daily practice.

  • wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life

Mercy is a tough concept. It’s tied up with forgiveness and our culture struggles with that (letting people get away with stuff doesn’t feel right. People should pay…). Of course, the irony is that all of us depend ultimately on the mercy of Jesus. As I reflect here, I’m wondering if grace has become the ‘in’ word in our faith communities in recent years and whether grace is the acceptable face of mercy. I’m going to give mercy some more attention…

  • be merciful to those who doubt

Here’s mercy again. And here are some synonyms for mercy:  forgiving, compassionate, gracious, lenient, clement, pitying, forbearing, humane, mild, soft-hearted, tender-hearted, kind, kindly, sympathetic…

If I listen carefully to what’s going on inside me, there’s something within me that resists some of the words in that list. They feel too soft – scary because they open you up to getting hurt and taken advantage of. Imagine being that person, specifically here when sitting across from someone who is expressing doubt.

  • save others by snatching them from the fire

These are the ones who are being influenced by the false teachers, who are dangerously close to losing their faith and rejecting God’s way. Whilst focusing on our own faith, we must not lose sight of our responsibility to support others in their walk with God. We don’t just sit by and watch others walk away.

  • to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh

Mercy again. But with a hint of fear: I think that’s a healthy fear, an understanding that we need to be on guard, wary of the seductive influence of those false promises and teachings. There’s no pride and superiority here: we’re seeking redemption and reconciliation for these people, not condemnation. That’s not our role at all.

Just be careful, that’s what this is saying. Care – yes, of course care. But don’t get drawn in. Don’t compromise your own faith. It’s only by being grounded in God that you can be sure that you will be able to stand firm. There’s a wise progression through these bullet points.

Persevere and explore mercy.

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