I meet with a group of men at my church; we call ourselves “a band of brothers.” During a recent gathering, we talked about the spiritual decline of America and abandoned, wayward brothers. We agreed that one of our missions is to “rescue” other brothers, living with broken hearts, who could be influenced by cultural lies. Many could be sinking into despair, resigned to riding out the storm alone.
As I prayed about this, I was drawn to Jude 22-23: “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire, to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”
“Jude wants us to become involved in the painful, yet merciful, work of helping those who are wondering about falling, who are falling, or who have fallen” (Bible Speaks Today). Jude seems to be describing believers who were in the various stages of falling away. “What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license – which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master” (Jude 4 MSG).
Oh, how easy it is for men to have their minds filled with teaching that denies the grace of God, only to get caught up in being religious and in the process moving further and further away from Jesus as Lord. These men need to be rescued by other brothers. They live in confusion and brokenness, having lost their way home, now living in the far country (Luke 15). Who will go and rescue them?
According to Jude, men need to be rescued from three conditions: First, those who are wavering. “Some were in the early stages of wavering in their commitment to faith as a result of false teachers” (NIVZSB). Brothers need to be shown mercy, needing loving encouragement. “Those driven into doubt need mercy” (N. T. Wright). Learn to encourage struggling brothers.
Second, those who are in danger, “becoming so persuaded by the false teachers that they were in imminent danger of condemnation” (NIVZSB). Some brothers will need rescuing from actual spiritual danger. Fire is an instrument of God’s judgment. “Those seduced by the intruders need rescuing” N.T. Wright).
Third, those who are caught. This group “probably consists of those who followed the false teachers” (NIVZSB), who are now caught in false teaching. We are to show mercy but be cautious, so as not to be enticed. “They must be urged to repent and warned of judgment” (N. T. Wright). “Christians must be extremely cautious when showing mercy to false teachers and their followers because their sins can be enticing” (NIVZSB).
Jesus gave us fair warning of being taken in by false teaching. “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect – if that were possible. So be on your guard. I have told you everything ahead of time” (Mark 13:22-23). Men, you will be tempted to compromise your faith. Satan wants to take you out of the fight.
We who are committed to Jesus need to be aware of our wounded brothers. There will be many in the days to come. Paul gives us this charge and warning, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal 6:1).