The book of Jude is one of my favorite books and I can make that statement for various reasons but none of those reasons would have come to fruition without my unknowingly wandering into the text as I was coming out of Seminary and looking to be ordained. It’s not a text that was required of me (I simply needed to preach on a New Testament text) but it was one I felt I wanted to preach because, well, I couldn’t recall hearing a sermon on it and nor could I recall what in the world it said (I tend to lean towards doing things that haven’t been done)! Being a believer my whole life, and having read the Bible numerous times, Jude was just one of those texts that I never took to heart.
Now with that being said I HIGHLY recommend you reading this short book! It has one of my favorite sending “blessings” in all of the Bible…and it’s a beautifully truthful challenge to the church today…but there, at the end of this challenging text, is a verse that many might gloss over or maybe wonder about and yet keep moving past. Here’s the text: keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (1:21). So what is going on here?
There’s 2 thoughts here – and one, to me, is clearly better than the other.
One school of thought is that this has to do with you, and me, being able to maintain our space in God’s love. It’s the belief that we can ebb and flow, coming in and out of, and remain in God’s love by the things we do, the things we don’t do, and by the actions of us. So if I love more people, serve God better, give more to the church, forgive more people, serve more of the needy, use my gifts and talents better, and all other things…that those things keep me in the love and grace of God. In other words this is “works-based” salvation. That my “works” here on earth keep me in God’s love and thus redemption, and heaven, will remain within MY grasp.
The problem with this thought? The problem is that it not only contradicts what Jude goes on to say in verse 24 (that Christ is the ONLY one who can keep you from stumbling or falling in and out, and is the ONLY one who can present you as a “blameless” person before God) – and the even BIGGER issue (as if there could even be one) is that THIS ISN’T SUPPORTED ANYWHERE IN SCRIPTURE. Sin is so deep and vast that we cannot do any “keeping” in regards to God and his love. And if ultimately we understand that Christ came to save us then we cannot contradict and negate that “saving” by doing any “keeping” in our salvation. If we believe we can “keep in God’s love” then, to me, logically that then means we don’t need Jesus.
So what is the other school of thought – and where do I land? Not only can we not ebb and flow in and out of salvation, not only can we not do anything to earn it (it’s called “grace” for a reason) but this isn’t even about that. This, to me, is about living a life of love every day. This is about recognizing that there is a way to this corrupt and broken world and there is a way of the love and goodness of God that is OUTSIDE OF this corrupt and broken world…and we can live in one or we can live into the reality of the other. That we can “keep ourselves” in the ways of this world or we can “keep ourselves” in the ways of God and his love.
One “keeping” in love of the worldly one is where I prevail over you and I live for me (because I love me). “Keeping ourselves” in a worldly life is one where I worship me, I fulfill my needs first, I serve me, and I love…me. But “keeping ourselves” in the love of God” is one where we live into the commandment to love him above all and then love others above me. “Keeping ourselves in the love of God” is one where I serve others, give to others, provide for others, seek justice and righteousness for others, and desire the prayer “your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” with every breath of my existence because I love God and I love others. “Keeping yourself in the love of God” is one where I work, live, play, rest, and exist in all areas of the things God loves. So whether I’m punching the clock at work, playing at recess, shopping at the mall, eating out at a restaurant, hanging out at home or having a BBQ with old friends and new neighbors – my words, my thoughts, my actions, and my ways are all done in reflection of God and his love.
So no…this isn’t some obscure comment by Jude to try to figure out how YOU and I can “keep” ourselves in God’s love because we cannot “keep” that at all. Because ultimately we can’t keep anything good or loving (can I get an amen?)! We worship the God of love and grace who died for our sins to present us as holy and loving adopted children of God. We worship the Spirit of God who dwells in us and KEEPS US and PRESERVES us and challenges us to live lives worthy of our calling (notice that HE, the Spirit, is doing the “keeping” – and it ain’t you or me!) and to love as God so loves us.
So yeah…keep on loving as God loves and remain in that God-loving-people-loving space…because it’s in that “space” that we declare the kingdome come…and it’s a good space to find ourselves!