So, we do not live in a world that tends to see things in black and white anymore. Michael Jackson said it didn’t matter, if you wanted to be his baby, and Billy Joel sang that shades of grey were all that he saw.
Jude doesn’t live in that world.
In Jude’s cosmos, there are those who God has chosen for salvation and those who God has chosen for damnation. This is a huge conversation, right? Jude isn’t even going to touch it. He’s just going to pretend that we agree and move on. The issue here isn’t overtly theological for him. I think that our early church peeps just made observations. Calvin arrived at the same place in a remotely similar way.
He noticed that he preached the same week to week and there were those that got it and responded, leaping into a new Christian life, and then there were those who just slept through life doing whatever they felt, led by their desires. We could talk for a while about Predestination and not really get anywhere. Calvin also taught that predestination was a doctrine of hindsight; only useful at the end of our journey when we could look back and see that ,Yep!, we were chosen. Praise be to God.
In the meantime, Jude heard that there were those who stepped into the church and abused it’s values for cash and it’s character for sex. Believe it or not…it still happens.
“Godless people have slipped in among you. They turn the grace of our God into unrestrained immorality and deny our only master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Judgment was passed against them a long time ago.” Jude 4
If this was a movie it would be the ‘Kick The Dog’ scene. The scene where the bad guys prove how bad they are by kicking the poor defenseless Labradoodle. Grace is a funny thing because it promotes a kind of innocent forgiving. Read Paul’s argument in Romans 6. Since we have God’s grace at work in our lives and there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ,” shouldn’t we be able to sin and give God an opportunity to exercise His greatest gift, Grace?
The “Godless people,” that is…people who are without God, used this as an argument and seemingly to great success or Jude wouldn’t have needed to address it.
“If God can forgive it, shouldn’t we do it?”
Yeah, baby! Notice the verb Jude uses: “Slipped in.” It’s suggestive of sexual immorality, but also of the serpent that spoke to Eve, that seduced her.
One thing that we find in Jude, is that his use of story is second to none. This short letter is absolutely pregnant with story. Each sentence is like an episode of Friends (except not funny), and the letter is Season 4.
In this moment, the reader is reminded that the invitation to sin so that God can forgive, so that our power can enable God’s power, is the primal sin. It’s the original lie. And we fall for it every time. That’s why it’s important to call these guys out as being marked with judgment passed long ago. Their prescription for the spiritual life is laced with PCP.
”There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”
But there is new life! And if the people around you are using God’s forgiveness as a way to abuse you, it’s not supposed to be that way.
In the coming weeks, Jude is going to use the whole breadth of Scripture to describe these Godless folks. I think that this goes far beyond “atheism”. We can’t look to moral, virtuous people and slap this label on them simply because they don’t share beliefs. When Jude talks about Godless people, he’s talking about a lack of virtue and moral conscience that comes from having absolutely no fear or appreciation for eternal consequence. I think that, too, Jude is owning that the name “Christian” doesn’t separate some from the “Godless.”
Just because you are in church doesn’t mean the church is in you.
And Jude is going to make us real uncomfortable about that.
Read ahead…it’s a roller coaster from here on out.