Tag Archives: Jude 1

Indulgent Thought Both Then and Now

These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
Jude 1:19 (NIV)

The letter Jude wrote to Jesus’ followers in that day was prompted by one specific reason. There were individuals coming to various local gatherings of Jesus’ followers and spreading the belief that if all their sins are forgiven then they have carte blanche to do whatever they want. In the minds of these individuals they had a spiritual “get out of jail free” card and they were going to use it wherever their unbridled appetites took them. This was, of course, a tempting message for those longing to unbridle their appetites with a neighborhood shrine prostitute. The result was trouble in River (of Life) City.

“There is nothing new under the sun,” we are told in the book of Ecclesiastes. Get any group of humans together and you’ll find a few (or more) individuals working the angles, looking for the loopholes, and seeking ways to twist things to their own advantage. This is human nature. The skewed thinking Jude addresses was not an isolated issue. Paul addressed similar troubles and similar lines of thought in his letters to Jesus’ followers in Rome and in the city of Corinth.

Fast forward 1500 years and we see the Roman Catholic church turning such thought into a lucrative racketeering opportunity. In those days the church sold “Indulgences.” These indulgences were basically guaranteed forgiveness, an actual “get out of hell free” card which could be used on demand with any future sin you might commit.

“Headed to your brother’s bachelor party at Brunhilda’s Bawdy Bordello? Stop by the church and stock up on indulgences, then have a great time!”

“Your friend’s spouse has been overly flirtatious lately and you’re tempted to see just how far things might go? Don’t go there until you buy yourself an indulgence from Brother Maynard over at the monastery! Come to think of it, buy two: one for you and one for your lover. You don’t want the threat of their soul being in mortal danger to cool off your mutually hot passions!”

Back in the day this lucrative money-maker for the Roman Catholic church and it was predicated on the same twisted thinking as what Jude was addressing in his day. In fact, it was this very religious racketeering that led Marty Luther to publish his medieval blog post on the local church door in Wittenberg (see featured photo) 500 years ago this October. His “95 Theses” post went viral and led to the Protestant Reformation.

Of course, along my life journey I’ve come to understand that human appetites come in all forms. There are “pretty sins” which we commonly overlook because they are covered in the religious veneer of self-righteousness. “Pretty sins” are simply appetites of human pride and ego-centric power which lead me to diminish and judge others in order to exalt myself and my ego. It was these same appetites which Jesus condemned in His rant toward the religious people of His day. Those “pretty sin” appetites are every bit as powerful and tempting as the “ugly sins” we routinely march out in order to shame people (and make ourselves feel better). In fact, I believe the pretty sins and their underlying appetites may be even more insidious and more dangerous.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. People are people. There is nothing new under the sun. The same human foibles Jude warned against in his letter were present in Martin Luther’s day, and they are present today. This morning is a heart-check for me. I don’t want Jude’s warning to stimulate my “pretty sin” appetites and send me off on a personal witch hunt looking for heinous local heretics who think such things today. I find myself more inwardly focused and asking:

“Are there any places in my life that I am glossing over destructive thoughts and behavior under the indulgent defense of ‘Oh well, I’m forgiven!‘?”

Cain, Crazy Makers and Loopholes in the Fine Print

source: stephanebetin via Flickr
source: stephanebetin via Flickr

Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain;
Jude 1:11a (NIV)

Along my life’s journey I have encountered many people who seem to always be looking for the loophole in the fine print. When I was a kid, I watched other kids who could twist and obfuscate their parents’ words until they had self-justified their blatant disobedience. In school, there were always a few who found some hairline crack in the system that allowed them to cheat and get away with it. As an adult, I’ve observed “good” people who seem to look for any means by which to cheat others, and the system, while justifying their actions.

In the early years, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the small groups of those who chose to follow Jesus met in homes. They would gather together, pray, worship, and share a meal which they called a “love feast,” which culminated in the word picture of communion. Everyone was invited and sat at the table together: men, women, rich, poor, slave, slave owner, Jew, Gentile, Roman, or zealot. In the social construct of the day it was an incredibly radical experience.

Those early believers quickly discovered that when you open up the table to anyone, you’re eventually going to attract crazy makers and those who look for the loophole in the fine print. These crazy makers would get drunk on the communion wine or perhaps stop by on their way to the love feast and sleep with a pagan temple prostitute. “If Jesus grace covers all of our sin,” the loophole finders argued, “then the more we sin, the more grace we receive and who doesn’t want more of Jesus’ grace?” They bragged of what they perceived to be their license to sin in the fine print of Jesus’ teaching. It became a problem.

How fascinating that Jude described these crazy makers as following “the way of Cain.” Cain was the son of Adam and Eve who “left the presence of the Lord” and killed his brother Abel. Jude’s point is that these crazy makers have always existed in this fallen world, and they still exist today. I have observed them in every strata of society and in every culture I’ve encountered. Jesus’ repeated call was to self-denial, humility, generosity, purity, and service above self. By contrast, I find crazy makers following the path of selfishness, arrogance, greed, cheating, and self above all.

Along the way I’ve had very little interpersonal success dealing with crazy makers and loophole finders. They are difficult people to be in relationship with as they suck everyone and everything into their self-centric black-hole. I honestly try to simply avoid dealing with them. If I find myself in a position of organizational authority, I try to protect the organization from them and their chaos. That was the whole intent of Jude’s letter.

Building Projects

blueprintBut you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith….
Jude 1:20a (NLT)

For over a year, Wendy and I have been dreaming and scheming to make some major renovations here at Vander Well Manor. Our little brick tudor is a cute old house and we love it. However, the garage is rotting, the wiring and plumbing are ancient, and the boiler appears to have been installed sometime during the Roosevelt Administration. We realize that it is going to take a fair amount of work to bring our house into the 21st century and make some desired improvements. Over the months we’ve been working with an architect to plan the changes we want. Now we’re in the stages of figuring out just how much it’s going to take and cost. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.

Building something, and doing it right, is not an easy task nor is it a simple one. It requires planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. In the end there is a cost, and when you’re doing renovation work there is always the question as to whether the resulting outcomes will be worth all of the cost in the end.

So it is with building people. God’s Message tells us that we are to “build one another up.” This, too, does not happen without planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. There is always the question whether your hard work will have been a worthwhile investment. Yet, we are not told to consider the outcome nor is it in our control. Building up other people is simply part of the job description for those who follow Jesus. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.

This morning I am reminded that building up a home and building up people have many similarities. There is, however, one major difference. If we succeed in building up our home it will result in some nice and needed improvements, but the house will simply need more renovation in another forty or fifty years. If we succeed in building up people it can have eternal results.

God, help me be a people builder.

Chapter-a-Day Jude 1

“Buddy Up!”
source: Richard Masoner via Flickr

“But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith….” Jude 1:20a (NLT)

Any boy scout or girl scout worth their cookies knows that when you go hiking in the wilderness you should never go alone. “Buddy up!” It’s a simple rule that resonates with so much wisdom for so many reasons. Even on a good and safe hike, we need companionship. There’s always opportunities to give one another a lift, challenge one another to push ourselves, and encourage one another to keep moving. If, God forbid, things go wrong we need someone who can help us, provide for us or who can go for help.

“Buddy up!” is as equally important on a spiritual journey. God said it at the very beginning: It’s not good for us to be alone. The whole thrust of Jude’s short and sweet letter is the encouragement to be careful with whom we buddy up. If we’re not careful, we can choose companions who will lead us astray, look out only for themselves, and selfishly abandon us when things get difficult in order to save their own necks. The companions we need are those who will always believe the best in us, always hope the best for us, always trust us to seek the after the right path and who always persevere with us through trials on it.

Today, I’m grateful for my friends and companions on this sojourn. Those who walked the journey with me for a season, as well as those who are companions for life. Choose wisely those with whom you walk life’s road. They influence the journey more than any of us generally realize.