Saturday, October 28, 2017

Love—antibiotic for a toxic church

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jude 1:1-25

TO CHEW ON: "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Jude 1:21

The first part of Jude's letter is a warning about "certain men" who have "crept in" to the church. Jude exposes their behaviors and teachings which include immoral and sensual lifestyles, a denial of Jesus, slandering authority, made-up teachings, greed which shows itself in an over-concern about profit, grumbling, complaining, flattering people in order to take advantage of them, mocking, dividing the congregation and all this obviously without the Holy Spirit. If there ever was a toxic church, this sounds like one!

In the face of this mess, Jude gives two instructions:
- Build yourselves up in your faith.
- Keep yourselves in the love of God.

I've written about building ourselves up in the faith in other devos about this passage, so today let's drill down a bit into what it means to keep oneself in the love of God. Though we can't know for certain what this meant to the people in the church to which Jude was writing, we'll make some assumptions. And because we're still part of imperfect churches and living in a hostile world, this focus on love remains as relevant for us today as it ever was.

I can see keeping oneself in the love of God as having three parts.

First, we remind ourselves of the quality and extent of God's love for us. This helps to counteract the twisted doctrine that interlopers are so eager to dispense.
"The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" - Jeremiah 31:3.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" - John 3:16.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" - Romans 5:8.

Second, we put muscle into loving God back. This sets us on the path of the morally straight and narrow, to live a lifestyle that  pleases God, who loved us so much.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" - Deuteronomy 6:5.

"Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
For the Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud person" - Psalm 31:23.

"Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ" - 2 Thessalonians 3:5.

Third, we express the love God has showered on us and which we reciprocate to Him, to others in the church and in the world around us. This sets a guard in our lives against ways we would sin against others.
" Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

"And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma" - Ephesians 5:2.

"But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection" - Colossians 3:14.

Love—it's a simple yet powerful antibiotic against moral bacteria of every strain.

PRAYER: Dear God, when I'm troubled by the evil in the church and life in this world, help me remember this simple instruction about keeping myself in love. Amen. 

MORE: Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude

Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude. (Simon and Jude, the writer of our reading today, were brothers of Jesus - Mark 6:3). The day's liturgy begins with this prayer:

"O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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