By Jaime Sherman
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.
In his first words of greeting, Jude reminds his recipients of their identity in Christ. This is a gift, for as Jackie Hill Perry says in her teaching this week, “Jude is about to get real dark.”
A red alert alarm will soon flash, sending the church to a battle between God’s truth and a perverted gospel, but first Jude calls them — and us today — Beloved.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude calls those surrendered to Jesus by a beautiful name with an even richer identity that we can cling to with confidence in the face of any and all contention we face concerning the doctrines of our faith. We are the dearly loved of God.
In love, Jesus died not for His allies but for all His brutal enemies, rescuing us from judgment and eternal separation from Him. His love bolsters us — and defines our responses — as the enemy’s special operatives sneak into the fellowship of believers. Jude continues:
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
If I was listening to this letter read aloud in Jude’s time, my perfectionistic mentality would beat myself up that I in some way I failed my Master and Lord.
Why didn’t I see through the undercover mission to infiltrate the church’s ranks?
Why did I trust these people?
Who even are these people?
Could I be one of them?
But then I’d pour over the first words of the letter and cling to the truth. I was called. I received a summons to place my trust in Christ, the One who gave His life to reconcile sinful man to Himself, but He didn’t force Himself upon me. Said simply, when the phone rang, I had a choice whether I would answer it or send the call to voicemail. In love, God gave me the freedom to accept or decline the call. I chose to answer it, accepting my identity as His beloved, as one held securely by God for eternity.
So now, holding tight to this truth, I am called and equipped to contend for the faith in what is neither a short-lived spat between bickering children around a pile of Legos nor a physical struggle like the original Olympic Games to which Jude eluded.
The original Greek word for contend is epagōnízomai, meaning to oppose, and comes from the root word agónizomai, which means to contend for a prize or to struggle. Jude was calling the church to fight whatever is not of faith and to do so with skill and commitment. From this word, we get our English word agonize, and as we know, to agonize isn’t just a physical reality.
To contend for the faith is an effort of the mind, for we must know God’s Word to adequately defend what it true. It’s also an act of the will as we choose with godly love to respond to those who oppose us. And finally, struggling is about engaging in a spiritual battle, one fought on our knees through prayer.
We are never alone in this charge to contend. God calls us beloved, and with this truth comes another — He is keeping us in the face of the enemy’s covert operation. God is watching over and guarding us. He will not let us go. As we studied in the fall, God made this promise to Joshua as he assumed leadership of the Israelites: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). We, too, can walk with confidence in the calling He has given us because we are beloved and kept in Him.