Jude 1:1-2 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
Every time I read this I am struck by the way Jude refers to himself. He grew up in the same household with Jesus that James did, having been born from the same mother, but he didn’t claim his physical kinship with Jesus, but rather called himself Jesus’ servant and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah of God. Growing up he was probably aware that Jesus was unusually good, but once Jesus started His ministry, John records that “Even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5) However, once Jesus was crucified and then rose from the dead, James, Jude, and the others repented of their unbelief, and they were among those in the upper room at Pentecost. (Acts 1:14) Jude was therefore aware of God’s incredible grace toward him, and he was forever humbled by that awareness. It is with that humility that he addresses his readers as called and loved by God. The next phrase is open to various interpretations because of the vagueness of the Greek preposition. The NIV says “kept by Jesus Christ,” but it gives for and in as alternative readings in a footnote. The Japanese goes with for and says, “because of/for the sake of.” The point is that it all centers on Jesus. Jude had come a long way from when he was just Jesus’ kid brother! It is with that understanding that he speaks the blessing of abundant mercy, peace and love, because he had experienced exactly that himself. We need to understand Jude’s attitude as we read his following remarks about false teachers in the Church. It was precisely because he recognized God’s grace toward him that he was able to speak so strongly against those who were distorting the Gospel and twisting grace into a license for immorality. (verse 4) The minute we forget our own dependence on the grace of God we lose our authority to teach and admonish others.
I too grew up in a family that gave many spiritual advantages, though certainly not as Jude did, but my response to that was not as good. I somehow thought that my parents’ clear, close relationship with God meant that my status was automatic, and I fell into severe conceit. God pointing that out to me in November, 1972, was a shock similar in many ways to Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:1-19) That has given me the perspective that if God can forgive me, and He has, then He can forgive anyone, if they will repent. My message is one of salvation, but it cannot be divorced from repentance. I am concerned that at times I come across as privileged and entitled, and that is the last thing I want. Like Jude, (and Paul, and all the rest of the New Testament writers) I know that it all depends on the love of the Father and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I have so many blessings from You, and occasionally even now I am tempted to think I deserve them. I pray that I would be an effective tool in Your hands, destroying the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and setting the captives free, (Luke 4:18-19) for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!