Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.
Jude 1: 22-23 The Message
In a world given to extremes, the Bible provides a helpful balance. In these two verses from the Book of Jude, we are given a tutorial on how to balance law and grace.
Here, Jude advises leading with grace when we approach the world, and our friends and neighbors. To those who may be hesitant in the faith: go easy on them. Don’t threaten them repeatedly and loudly with hell (sending them there is not our right or responsibility anyway!)
No! Lead with love, understanding, and perhaps most of all, patience. As the old song states, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Make that statement ring true, especially as you deal with those just curious about the faith.
Yet Jude does not shy away from the need for boundaries, and consequences. Especially when it comes to those who are saying something absolutely false. Rather than publicly expose them, condemn their thinking in public, we are to be tender. Being tender does not mean we are ignoring errors. We are called upon to stay strong in our beliefs. By setting an example of love, mercy, and grace, we are more likely to be heard. Someone hit over the head is not likely to want to come back for seconds.
One of the great temptations for the church is to excuse sin. This has always been true, and it is one of the reasons why many outsiders look at the church at hypocritical. Christians have always been tempted to turn a blind eye towards sin. Often, this is done because the topic of sin is uncomfortable.
Yet Jude does not mince words with it comes to his opinion about such permissive attitudes towards sin. Jude does not endorse being “soft of sin”. Instead, he advises that we in the church hold up certain standards. If anything, Jesus RAISED standards compared to the Old Testament norms. Time after time, Jesus held up for his followers the high standard of aiming for the absolute elimination of all sin. What we think is just as important as to how we act. Jesus condemned sin found within our hearts, as well as sin done with our hands. Inaction is not an option. How we choose our path can determine the outcome of being a good witness to Christ.
Sin is a destructive force. Growing in holiness means striving to eliminate sin anywhere, and everywhere. After all, festering sin is kind of like rotting food: it will soon start to stink! While condemning sin is necessary, it should always be coupled with humility, for it is true that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When we focus on the sin of others, let us also focus on eliminating our own sin.
May we all strive to balance our love for our neighbors with our hatred of sin. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a slogan which captures the spirit of the sentiment here. However, the Message translation captures this thought a little more artfully: “Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin.” Good advice for all of us!
Thank You for offering a solid foundation for my life. May I structure my witness to other using the tools you have given me. I want to help those who are not walking in the light with You, to desire and want to seek that path. Give me the right words to speak. Help me to realize that Your words are the only true words which will draw others to You. Give all of us listening ears and the wisdom to discern.
Thankfully and humbly I pray these words in Your Holy name. Amen.