Going the Way of Cain?

Jude 1-16

Henry David Thoreau quote
Henry David Thoreau.<br />Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ktylerconk/2334279457/">Kathleen Conklin</a>

A letter from James’s brother, Jude, a follower of Jesus, to those God has called and loved and who are protected by Jesus.

May you have plenty of relief, peace and love.

Dearest friends, I was all set to write to you about our mutual salvation. But instead I’m writing to urge you into a crusade for the faith given once and for all to the holy people. Because reprobates have infiltrated you. Reprobates who long ago were branded for their godless perversions, who think God’s grace is a license to sin, and who deny Jesus.

May I remind you of what you already are well aware of:

  • That God destroyed the unbelievers even after they had been rescued from Egypt;
  • That the insubordinate angels who left their stations are now in chains awaiting Judgement Day;
  • That Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them that engaged in illicit sex and followed their perverted lust are now examples of what eternal punishment will be like.

In the same way, the reprobates among you pervert their bodies, question authority, and deprecate the angels. Even the chief angel, Michael, didn’t dare to deprecate another angel, even though that angel was the devil. When the two of them fought over Moses’ body, he said, “Let God tell you off.” But these people deprecate anything they don’t understand, even though like unthinking animals they know it by instinct. Sooner or later, it will destroy them.

Too bad about them. They’re going the way Cain went. They’re abandoning themselves to the same mistake Balaam made, taking money over God. They’re dying on the wrong side of Korah’s rebellion. They’re rotten spots at your communion table. They take without fear, caring only for themselves. They are waterless clouds blowing in the wind. They are fruitless, dead, uprooted trees. They are rogue waves at sea, nothing but shameful foam. They are stars out of alignment, falling into a black hole.

Enoch, who lived just seven generations after Adam, predicted these people:

Look, God is coming with limitless angels to execute anyone convicted of any ungodly deed committed in any ungodly way, and of everything ungodly sinners have ever said against God.

These whiny nit-pickers lust after whatever they want. They’re nothing but loud and arrogant flatterers looking for a hand-out.

They say there’s no fight quite like a church fight. And quite often people involved in a church fight like to write nasty letters enumerating their opponents’ offenses in great and disdainful detail. It’s a terrible tradition that goes all the way back to Jude’s letter.

[Note: Many Bible scholars agree that this letter probably was not really written by “James’s brother Jude.” It’s another case of someone writing under someone else’s name to claim that person’s posthumous endorsement of their views. Would you trust someone in the throes of such a tirade to be completely honest about their identity? Come to think of it, given the content it’s highly debatable that the letter’s author is (in this moment) even a follower of Jesus.]

As good as it may feel to write down and distribute a tirade of name-calling, this is a prime example of what not to do. Sure, we all get really freaking mad at other people now and then. And sure, your therapist might tell you that it’s good to vent, maybe even to get it all out on paper. But for God’s sake, don’t leave a copy of it in the church library or on the Pastor’s desk.

Better to remember, and especially if you really are a Jesus follower, that Jesus frowned on name-calling.

Oh, and did I mention, it’s not just applicable to church. There are more constructive ways to handle disagreements even in business and politics. “Don’t go the way of Cain” could be a relevant Biblical admonition in 2012. Just saying.