The first week of my translations for Advent 2022 finish with this beautiful doxology from Jude.
17. But you, dear ones, must remember the words already spoken by the apostles of our Lord Messiah Jesus.
18. For they kept saying to you that in the last times there will be scoffers led away by their own desires.
19. These people create divisions. They are worldly, for they do not have the Spirit.
20. But you, dear ones, should build each other up in holiness and faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.
21. Keep yourselves in the love of God, awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Messiah in eternal life.
22. You should have mercy on some who are doubting.
23. Others, you should save by snatching them out of the fire. Still yet others you should have mercy, with fear, while hating even their clothes which are polluted by the flesh.
24. To the one who is able to guard you, standing steady in the presence of his glory, spotless and glad,
25. to the only God, our savior through our Lord Messiah Jesus be majestic glory and mighty power from all the ages, now, and in all the ages. Amen.
Scoffers are gonna scoff. It is what they do. Jude is on to them, and so should we. You can spot the scoffer because he or she inevitably works to create divisions. As people who live in an age marked by division — political division, social division, family divisions, racial divisions, and religious divisions — we should hear this warning with fresh ears. When you hear or encounter someone whose words, tone, and ideals seek to divide people into them and us, you have encountered a scoffer.
Sadly, I fear, this describes most of our leaders. I am also afraid it sometimes describes me.
By contrast, people who follow the Lord Messiah Jesus, a formula phrase for Jude, build each other up. The root word here is edification. We don’t divide, we build. We build upon holiness, faith, prayer, love, and mercy.
I am particularly moved by the rather subjective imperatives of verses 22 and 23. I say subjective because the command we are given seems to be predicated upon the individual we are dealing with. For some people, we should have mercy in their doubt, which indicates patience and waiting while others we need to snatch, pursue them, save them from the fires of this world. Another group of people we need to have mercy on but hate their clothes. That is not a fashion statement, but rather their lives are so filthy their clothing is a metaphor for their sinful behaviors and lifestyle. In my mind, this is something like a rich and powerful person dressed in fine clothing but whose character is filthy with no integrity or perhaps filled with malice. We must find a way to love this person with mercy, but never accept their sinfulness.
This last bit convicts me. I can handle people who smell bad or who are down and out, in other words. I am okay with people whose literal clothing is filthy. However, people whose actions disgust me turn my stomach, and I have very little mercy for them. I need to work on this.