OTHER LETTERS: Jude
But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the holy Spirit. On those who waver, have mercy; save others.
Jude 20, 22
Jude has the distinct honor of giving the second-to-the-last word in the Bible. Written by a leader of the early Jewish-Christian community in Palestine, this book may well be (ironically) among the earliest completed of the New Testament. He writes in a sort of “crossover” language, using Jewish scripture and imagery familiar to his audience to teach lessons and ideals of this Christianity still forming, still emerging.
After the opening niceties, Jude warns the community of bad, even contradictory teaching in their midst. Some members understood freedom in Christ as an absolute thing, and they celebrated this “freedom” by indulging in sexual excess. But there is no freedom without responsibility, and those who claim the faith have to live it, recognizing the claim of moral responsibility that faith makes on them. Those who persist in wrongdoing put not only themselves but also the whole community at risk.
Jude leaves this particular church with practical advice on how to handle those who are straying: with love, with hope, with prayer, with mercy. These things too will keep them growing in their faith journeys. By acknowledging Christ’s moral authority, it becomes clear how the faithful are to handle themselves in daily life.