The times are crazy and chaotic. People who once worshipped Jesus are walking away from Him and even teachers of Jesus are departing from Him. God’s people are disoriented and discouraged as people they love are drifting from the faith they once shared. It was the mid 60s AD, as in only a few decades after Jesus was resurrected. So Jude writes a short letter, one chapter in the Bible, to plead with believers to keep in God’s love (v 21) as they were kept by God’s love (v 1).
There is indeed nothing new under the sun. As a pastor I am often asked about “the pastor I used to listen to who says he doesn’t believe any more” or “my friend who has given up on God.” It is still disorienting and Jude’s words are still encouraging – to “contend for the faith that was delivered once and for all to the saints” (v 3) while keeping our eyes on “the One who is able to protect us from stumbling” (v 24).
There is much to learn from Jude’s letter, but I have been thinking about two verses as a new year has begun. The two verses are Jude’s descriptions of those who walked away. Jude was not writing to shame those who walked away, as he encouraged the people to have mercy on those who waver (v 22). Instead, he was warning and encouraging those who are staying with Jesus, but the warning does contain learnings from those who abandoned Jesus.
These people are dangerous reefs at your love feasts as they eat with you without reverence. They are shepherds who only look after themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by winds; trees in late autumn—fruitless, twice dead and uprooted. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameful deeds; wandering stars for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever. (Jude 12-13)
A lot of metaphors in just two verses, and some clear actions to remain in God’s love:
Dangerous reefs are what could shipwreck a ship on the open water. Those walking away were dangerous at their love feasts, the times the Church gathered for communion, because they held no awe, affection, or reverence for Jesus. To keep in His love, we must continually renew our affection for Jesus by reflecting on His great love and sacrifice for us.
Shepherds who only look after themselves were shepherding for themselves instead of caring for Gods’ people. To keep in His love, those of us who shepherd God’s people must remember we exist for the sheep; the sheep don’t exist for us.
Wild waves of the sea described people putting deeds on display, deeds that violated God’s character. To keep in His love, we must continually repent of trusting ourselves or putting confidence in ourselves, knowing that in our sinfulness we are capable of a plethora of actions we would be ashamed of.
Waterless clouds, fruitless trees, and wandering stars were people who gave the external impression of godliness but there was no water, no fruit, and the light quickly faded. To keep in His love, we must remain in Jesus, the Vine, because we can not bear any fruit apart from Him.
There is beautiful paradox in Jude’s writing. We are the kept and we are to keep. We can only keep in His love if we are kept by His love, and keeping with Him shows we are truly kept by Him. Those kept by the love of God keep in the love of God. He is able to keep us from falling and at the same time, we keep in His love by remembering His offering for us, repenting of ourselves, and remaining in Him.