Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Yet these people slander what they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct – as irrational animals do – will destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
Sometimes I read passages of the Bible and just think, ‘huh?’. What does this really have to say to my life today, to my eating, sleeping, going-to-work, walking-around life?
This bit of Jude is one such passage. The letter was written to a particular group of people at a particular time for a very particular situation – false teachers in their midst – and on first reading, I struggled to see its relevance for the church today, let alone my own life.
In this passage – and the few verses prior – Jude is explaining how the false teachers in the community are similar to the very worst examples from Israelite history: Cain, whose hatred led to the murder of his brother; Balaam, a greedy man who led God’s people into sexual immorality; and Korah, who rebelled against Moses’ authority and was literally swallowed up by the ground.
Seems a bit niche, right? But this passage warns us about the danger of those who would deliberately deceive us, and advises us to be on our guard against them. But it also seeks to remind us that, when we do come across false teachers, dangerous theology, or blatant sin, it is ultimately not our problem to deal with.
Of course, as Jude has already made clear, the community must ‘contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people’. But it is – in the end – not their battle to fight. For, as Jude goes on to say, ‘the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone’. God – the one who has called them, and in whom they are loved – has the final word.
For someone who is often deeply concerned with doing the ‘right’ thing (and far too often also concerned with making sure others do it too!), this is both a challenge and a comfort. A challenge, because it warns me of the dangers of being led astray, encouraging me to seek truth and discernment as I wrestle with Scripture. A comfort, because it reminds me to leave the final judgement up to God. It’s his battle, not mine.
So perhaps this passage is a challenge and a comfort to you, too. A challenge to seek truth and contend for the faith in the face of deliberate distortions… but a comfort to rest in the knowledge that God’s reckoning is perfect and final, and the victory, ultimately, is his.