[He] is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.
Following Jesus often feels like walking a tightrope. It asks us to balance our natural inclinations to defend ourselves and blame others with His unnatural command to love those who are critical, spiteful, and hateful toward us. Acquiring skill to do this takes a lot of time and practice. We falter more often than we succeed at first. And even when we do achieve it, our early attempts can leave us shaken, surprised, and not quite sure how it happened. Experience teaches us right steps and maneuvers to counteract threats to our equilibrium. Still, risk of plummeting into selfishness or retaliation remains constant, demanding utmost attention to guard against self-inflicted injury and disappointment.
A Practically Impossible Feat
Few scriptural passages match Jude’s high-strung contrast between the attitudes and actions of our opponents and how we’re to treat them. It asks us to “contend for the faith,” which is liable to corruption by those who “long ago slipped in among you” and “speak abusively against whatever they do not understand… grumblers and faultfinders,” driven by false motives and self-interest, “who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”
While Jude minces no words reviling contrarians who infiltrate the halls of faith, he says to reach out to them in love: “Be merciful to those who doubt, snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” There may be nothing legitimate, affirming, or appealing about those opposing our belief. But that doesn’t exempt us from loving them or relieve our obligation to obey the law of Christ. In all honesty, Jude calls for a practically impossible feat—walking a tightrope between loathing adversarial personalities and loving their beings.
Attempt = Accomplishment
Instead of being intimidated by this challenge, we shore up confidence in our reason for accepting it. We don’t love our enemies to demonstrate moral superiority or altruism. We do it for God’s glory. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5.16) Our responsibility is the attempt. Once we’re out there, God ensures the accomplishment. He keeps us from falling, Jude says, so that we finish flawlessly and overjoyed. When you’re faced with walking the love tightrope, know two things. As impossible as it seems, you’re kept safe and secure by God’s hand. And, wobbly and unsure as it feels, He’ll guide you to the end for His glory and honor.
Our responsibility is to step out on the love tightrope; God ensures our safety and success for His glory and honor.
(Tomorrow: For All People)