But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray 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; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
These verses challenge us with next-steps in our journey. They also reaffirm our absolute dependence in all things on the Lord. Finally, they instruct our attitude and behaviour towards those who are faltering.
As we carry on our journey in Christ, Jude speaks these four words: “build up,” “pray,” “keep,” and “wait.” While each of them is crucial, the grammar puts emphasis on the command “keep” – it’s actually the only one of these verbs that’s written in the imperative, as a command. The word means to “attend to, closely” or to “guard.” Make sure at all times, Jude says, that you stay rooted, anchored, founded in God’s love. Guard that position. Don’t stray from that base. What a powerful ongoing foundation for the Christian life. Amid everything else, never lose sight of the fact that you are beloved of God, wholly embraced in his grace, without reservation.
With that in place, the other verbs come into play. “Building yourself up” in faith – knowing you are loved, take steps to expand and deepen understanding, together with a posture of absolute trust. “Praying” – engage in all of life by interceding, asking, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” “Waiting” – look forward expectantly to the fulfillment of promises, all of which will be realized at the coming of our Lord Jesus. “Building up,” “praying,” “waiting” – all of it flowing from that command to “keep” yourself rooted in God’s love.
While we are urged to take these active steps, the verses make clear that it is the Lord himself who undergirds it all. We take steps, but the Lord is always at work. When we pray, it’s to be “in the Holy Spirit,” under his anointing and empowering, consciously leaning into him, and seeking his guidance. The undergirding for all, as we’ve already noticed, is God’s great love for us – that infinitely dimensioned love that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 3, its breadth and length and height and depth surpassing knowledge but providing the sure foundation for life. And the hope we lean into is rooted in the mercy of our Lord Jesus – his death on the cross has made eternal provision for us. So, while we ourselves work, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the foundation and atmosphere and life’s blood of our existence. Praise his name.
Rooted in all this, Jude instructs us to care well for those who are faltering in faith, for those who in one way or another have gotten disconnected from their grounding in God’s love. He tells us to base our care in the mercy we ourselves expectantly hope to receive at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. When you encounter someone slipping into doubt, extend to them the very mercy of Jesus himself, like that hand extended to Peter as he sank below the waves. Snatch others from the fire. Show that same mercy of Jesus even to those whose sin is grievous.
Such mercy would be impossible were it not grounded in Jesus. It would be utterly lifeless did it not flow from God’s love. So, embrace the ongoing work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in your own life – building up, praying, guarding, waiting – and allow it to spill forth in your care of others. To the glory of his name.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – thank you for your ongoing work in my life. Your love undergirds me, and your mercy inspires me. Help me to be your hands and feet, reaching out to rescue those who struggle, to those caught in sin. To the glory of your name.
Has the Lord put anyone in your sights who is slipping and faltering? How should you pray (knowing you are praying in the Holy Spirit)? How should you act (knowing God’s love, and the mercy of Jesus)?
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay