“Keep yourself in God’s love.” That really sounds like a religious or spiritual thing to say, right? What comes to your mind when you read that line? In this series of posts, we have been studying some phrases that Jude writes in an ancient letter to his Christian friends. It seems that Jude is writing them to give them guidance about how to ready themselves if Jesus would return in their lifetimes. Specifically, Jude’s friends had allowed ungodly impostors in their church, and he was very concerned that his friends were doing the opposite of getting ready for Jesus’ return. In verses 1-16 he pointed out who they impostors were, and now in verses 17-25 he is giving the church instructions for how to address the impostors, thus providing the church a foundation for being ready should Jesus return.
First, he talked about how to build one another up in the faith and, second, about praying in the Spirit. Now he says in verse 21 that Christians, to be ready for Jesus’ return, should keep themselves in God’s love. Last week I referred to this verse because at the beginning of the letter, Jude says in verse 1 that he writing to those who are “called, loved and kept by God.” So in verse 1 we see God at work doing the calling, loving and keeping, while here in verse 21 Jude says that the Christians need to do the work of keeping themselves in God’s love. It is both God’s work and ours. So how do we keep ourselves in God’s love?
The way Jude wrote this, the phrase “keep yourself in God’s love” is the only command or imperative, and the other phrases support that command. In the NIV the translators chose to feature each phrase individually. Some other English translations, however, help us see Jude’s focus when they translate it this way: “building yourselves up in the faith, praying in the Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love, waiting for the mercy of God to bring yourselves to eternal life.” See how each of the supporting phrases modify the central command to keep yourselves in God’s love?
That means we should be known for our love while we wait for God to return, or until that day we pass on. The goal is to keep ourselves in God’s love. In that we see how much God wants to be in relationship with us, how much he wants his love to remain in our lives, and thus how much he wants his love to be flowing out of our lives.
Think about other Scripture passages referring to love that we can apply to our lives. “Love one another.” “Love your enemies.” “We love because God first loved us.” When we depend on God’s love, his power resides in us, so that his love flows through us. This occurs through his Spirit within us, meaning that his love is within us. Here we have a connection to praying in the Spirit which Jude mentioned previously.
I was reading this week about the ancient Christians and how they lived through numerous awful plagues in the Roman Empire. When most others, especially the wealthy fled the cities to avoid the plague, the Christians, filled with God’s love, stayed and ministered the hope of Jesus to people. Interestingly, as the Christians shared the words of the Good News about Jesus, and as they provided clean water and food to people, many sick people actually recovered, and when they were back to health, you can imagine how they felt about Jesus. Many gave their lives to him. Those Christians kept themselves in God’s love.
How about you? What will it look like for you to keep yourself in God’s love? Notice that it is a practice of relationship to God that results in his loving flowing out of you. Keeping yourself in God’s love is not just personal or private. Instead, when you are filled with God’s love, you will share that love with those around you, especially with those in need.