Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear. Jude 1:22–23
“The shepherd needs great wisdom and a thousand eyes,” wrote the beloved church father John Chrysostom, “to examine the soul’s condition from every angle.” Chrysostom wrote these words as part of a discussion on the complexity of caring well for others spiritually. Since it’s impossible to force anyone to heal, he emphasized, reaching others’ hearts requires great empathy and compassion.
But that doesn’t mean never causing pain, Chrysostom cautioned, because “if you behave too leniently to one who needs deep surgery, and do not make a deep incision in one who requires it, you mutilate yet miss the cancer. But if you make the needed incision without mercy, often the patient, in despair at his sufferings, throws all aside . . . and promptly throws himself over a cliff.”
There’s a similar complexity in how Jude describes responding to those led astray by false teachers, whose behavior he describes starkly (1:12–13, 18–19). Yet when Jude turns to how to respond to such grave threats, he doesn’t suggest reacting with harsh anger.
Instead, he taught that believers should respond to threats by rooting themselves even more deeply in God’s love (vv. 20–21). For it’s only when we’re deeply anchored in God’s unchanging love that we can find the wisdom to help others with appropriate urgency, humility, and compassion (vv. 22–23)—the way most likely to help them find healing and rest in God’s boundless love.
Why is it crucial to “[build yourself] up . . . in the Holy Spirit” (v. 20) before you respond to perceived threats? What examples have you seen of great wisdom and compassion used in helping someone in great pain?
God of love, when I’m faced with evil and hate, help me not to respond in kind but anchor myself in Your love.
Written by Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, the book of Jude opens and closes with a charge or calling for believers to stand firmly in their faith (“contend for the faith,” v. 3). They are to build themselves up in “most holy faith” (v. 20). The context of Jude’s concern is false teachers whose primary failure is an ungodly way of life. The false teachers are unapologetic about their immoral choices, using the truth of God’s grace as “a license for immorality” (v. 4). Speaking to an audience presumably familiar with Jewish Scriptures, Jude recounts cautionary tales of the consequences of an immoral lifestyle, drawing from both Hebrew Scriptures and the book of 1 Enoch (vv. 14–15). First Enoch, while not part of our scriptural canon, would have been held in high regard by a Jewish audience.