Imagine growing up in the same house as Jesus: From dividing up chores and sharing a bunk bed, to playing Monopoly and arguing with him when you land on Boardwalk, picture your childhood life with the perfect Savior of the World!
While it’s amusing to entertain this thought of growing up with Jesus, that was the reality for Jude, one of Jesus’s four half-brothers. Despite their familial relationships, Jude initially did not honor Jesus as the Messiah, and it was only after seeing Jesus’ resurrection when he became a follower of Christ.
In his epistle to an unknown church, Jude emphasizes the need for the church to “contend” for the true Christian faith (v.3) He then gives the reason why the church should fight for the true Christian faith by addressing the presence of false teachers in the church (v.4). After addressing these false-teachers, Jude explains how exactly the church is supposed to strive for the Christian faith in verse 20-24:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.Jude 20-24
It is fascinating to see that all of the verbs Jude uses in verses 20-24: building, praying, keeping, and waiting. These are all continuous verbs, suggesting there is an active waiting period during which patience and effort is exerted. These actions are not one-and-done tricks that will lead to our best life now, but virtues that we must practice, fail, and then try again each and every day, hour, and moment. To wrestle with the Christian faith, is a life-long, patient, slow-grind to holiness.
But, there is a challenge to acquiring these virtues that each of us knows too well. Life is hard. Life hits us so hard that even an inspiring speech from Rocky Balboa can’t motivate us to action. So the question is not always, “How are we supposed to contend for the Christian faith,” but can we? And if so, is it worth the cost?
Jude acknowledges and addresses the difficulty of living the Christian faith in this fallen world in verses 24-25. In his Doxology, Jude reminds us that we are not ploughing through life on our own power, but it is Jesus himself who empowers us to “contend” for the Christian faith (Jude v. 24). It is through Christ’s power and sustenance that we are enabled to live the most miniscule moments, hours, and days of our lives in a manner worthy of the calling that we have received (Ephesians 4:1).
Jude’s exhortation to the church to obtain these virtues has a special significance because of Jude’s unique perspective. As Jesus’ half-brother, Jude had an intimate relationship with Jesus. He knew Jesus’ quirks, was familiar with the types of jokes that made him laugh the hardest, and has likely worked alongside Jesus for long and hard days. Jude literally saw Jesus grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). And when Jude saw Jesus resurrected, all of the childhood memories about Jesus did not serve as arguments against the divinity of Christ, but as proof of it.
As a good friend once told me, it is often in the small seemingly insignificant moments, that we are able to best show the character of Christ. In his letter, Jude is reminding us that we are not in this journey alone. That in the same way Christ was with him as a child, Christ is with us and is strengthening us to honor Him each and every-day. It is not the one apologetic argument that leads to the salvation of others, but the repeated conversations, meals, and kindness that demonstrate the truth of Christ. It is not the one hour long devotional that leads to spiritual maturity, but the persistent engagement with the Word of God that trains us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Jude is encouraging us to continue the slow-grind to holiness, knowing that Jesus is with us and He already reigns as Lord.