“Be merciful to those who doubt.”
Interesting phrase, isn’t it? So often we conceive of doubt as a negative thing to be avoided, and the result can be that people who doubt are considered to be sinful or strange. But is doubt wrong?
As we conclude our two-week study through the letter of Jude, we find that in verse 22, he writes that we should be merciful to people who doubt. Why? Because doubt is not an indication of disbelief. Doubt is normal. Just about everyone doubts. It doesn’t mean they have lost the faith. They’re just questioning, investigating, wondering. Their doubt is actually healthy, as doubt helps us go deeper in our beliefs, making them our own. Let’s be merciful to those who doubt. Instead of judging those who doubt, let’s listen to them share their concerns.
Someone recently said to me that where there is doubt there is hope. In a society where there is growing doubt, this is instructive to us. I’ve heard a stat reporting that only 30% of 18-30 year olds go to church. We can choose to get upset about this, but Jude is wise to instruct us to be merciful to those who doubt. Rather than dump on people for doubting, we should have an attitude of embracing them, even when they doubt. Doubt means they are searching, and thus there is hope that they’ll find what they are looking for.
Jude has more instructions for us in verse 23: “Snatch others from the fire and save them.” Christians should be known as being active in outreach. We can and should seek to help the ungodly impostors find God. But notice how Jude finishes verse 23, “To others show mercy mixed with fear, hating even the clothing stained with corrupted flesh.” For people who are corrupted, meaning that they will not receive any help or guidance or word about Jesus, which seems to describe the ungodly impostors in Jude’s day, then it is time to part ways with them. Remember our study in Titus when Paul said, “have nothing to do with them”? That’s what Jude is getting at here.
Jude then concludes his letter in verses 24-25 with an amazing flourish. It is a prayer to God. He starts his prayer, “To him who is able to keep you from falling.” Falling is a word that refers to stumbling. God is able to keep you from stumbling! He doesn’t force us. But we can depend on him, and rely on his strength and power through his Spirit within to help us remain faithful to him.
Next Jude says God is also able “to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.” Combine that with how he finishes the prayer: “To the only God, our savior, be glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord before all ages, now and forevermore.” When I think about that it strikes me how he focuses on giving glory to God. He is placing God squarely in focus right in front of him, right in front of us, almost saying, “Look at God, he is real, he is alive, he is powerful, and we need to remember that.”
These kinds of rich theological prayers are so important because they shake us out of a lull and help us focus on what is real, what is true, what is important about life.
This, then, is what Jude is saying in his letter. He is saying, “Wake up people, there are impostors in your church, and you are letting it happen. You’ve let yourself fall asleep. Wake up. Focus on truth, on goodness; focus on God. You’re probably going to need to repent of your lethargy and get down to the business of contending for the faith. But remember that you are called, loved and kept. God is able to keep you from falling. He is at work! Focus on him. Spend time with him. Allow him to guide your life.”