The more things change, the more they stay the same. There is nothing new under the sun.
History repeats itself. The longer we live, the more we find those cliches true in all realms of life. Here is a moment in the history of Christianity.
The times are divisive and chaotic. The culture surrounding Christians is pushing agendas and ideas opposite of the values of God’s people. Temptations abound in the culture and people within the Church are pulled away. People who once worshiped Jesus are walking away from Him. Even preachers are departing from His truth. God’s people are disoriented as those they love are drifting from the faith they shared. God’s people are struggling, wondering if they will be able to hold on in a hopeless world.
Does that sound like today? This is the context of the mid-‘60s—and I don’t mean the mid-1960s, but the mid-‘60s AD, as in only a few decades after Jesus was resurrected. It is the context for the book of Jude. If you were advising Jude on who to write to and what to say in a context where things seem crazy and some have walked away from Jesus, what would you suggest?
- A letter to the culture addressing their sins.
- A letter to those who walked away shaming them.
- A letter to the Christians blaming them for the people who walked away.
- A letter to the Christians encouraging and imploring them.
Jude clearly goes with “D.”
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James: To those who are the called, loved by God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. (Jude 1-2)
Jude does not destroy the surrounding culture. I am thankful that people address the culture, but that is not what Jude does—because he is pastoring a group of people. He also does not write to the people who left the faith and try to convince them of their errors. He tells God’s people to have mercy on those who waver, but he pleads with God’s people to keep themselves in the love of God.
If you are discouraged by the craziness in the world, we have been here before. If you are troubled by people walking away from God, we have been here before. In fact, Jude wrote with confidence as one who knew his times were not unprecedented, referencing others who walked away before his time—from the angels to Israelites in the desert. Jude himself shared a name with one of the most famous people who walked away.
The book of Jude is written by a man named Judas, which was a common name in Israel at the time. It was popular because of the tribe of Judah, and also because a renowned leader of a Maccabean revolt against Rome was named Judas. Lots of Jewish parents were naming their sons Judas. There are eight Judases listed in the Scripture. This Judas, the one who wrote Jude, is the brother of James (Matthew 13:54-55), and yet he shares a name with one who walked away and betrayed Jesus.
Both Judases knew a lot about Jesus—His miracles, His teachings, His life. Jesus spent time with both Judases, but their paths were very different. Betrayer Judas walks away from Jesus and this Judas (Jude) writes a letter warning people not to walk away from Jesus. In our not-unprecedented times, still some walk away and some trust Him. Jude is encouraging us to be the people who keep coming back to Jesus when we struggle, and Jude opens the letter with confidence that we will stay with Jesus because we are the called, loved, and kept. Just as in Jude’s day, we can rejoice in the fact that we are the called, loved, and kept.