Mercy with fear is NOT the mercy mentioned in most of the Bible is it? It is definitely not the sort of Mercy Jesus is describing in his parables. Maybe an obscure book of the New Testament called Jude can shed some insight on mercy and how it’s wielded, that is if we can maintain self-control and not gloss right over it.
I can hear someone right now, “Here he goes again, there’s already an article on the Book of Jude on the Shepherding the Heart website!” Well, if Jude wasn’t so pertinent today, I would talk about something else. Instead, I am going to at least make the attempt to convey information people need right now and if we get to examine more in time, we will examine other parts of scripture at that appropriate time.
For those who are unaware, The book of Jude is a very small book. Jude calls himself a bond-servant and brother of James. In church beginnings there was only one James who could be referred to this way without any further explanation. That makes this particular Jude one of our Lord’s step-brothers which you can read about in Matthew 13:55 Mark 6:3. The Book is an exhortation to the Followers of Jesus where he warned them of the infiltration of false teachers and false shepherds into the faith. Not only was this situation severe in the early days, it has been an on-going struggle. Some versions of the Bible title this section “Keep Yourselves in the Love of God”. How selfish we are to use a phrase as a title for a section that is much more focused on how we should love others? Is there a correlation not only of the wording of the title with the content of the section but also to the time as well?
Listen to verses 20-23
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit;
keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
And have mercy on some, who are doubting;
save others, snatching them out of the fire;
and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
Twice Jude calls for believers to exercise mercy.
In the first case he calls for mercy on those who are doubting; in his second exhortation, he calls for them to have mercy on some with fear. I find it interesting that two ways to exercise mercy are mentioned. I think we have a lot to learn from the difference.
In the first case, when we offer mercy that mercy is received and leads to repentance. Not because of our disposition toward the mercy we showed someone but their disposition toward the mercy they were shown. When we show mercy to people we are doing something that is contrary to this world’s system. The world does not understand it, they do not understand why they should do it, they don’t understand when they should do it and they do not even have the capacity to offer mercy freely without attaching a stipulation to it because they have never been shown an example of Godly Mercy so they could reproduce it.
We are called to offer freely the mercy shown to us by Jesus to others for this very reason. In the way that we show mercy proves the way we have been shown mercy. Also, we are constantly reminded throughout the New Testament that the manner in which we do these things will be the manner where with we shall be judged in the end.
In the second case, Jude continues and highlights another way to wield mercy, offering mercy to someone who is not going to show the same mercy back. In this case, you could view this as offering mercy to an enemy. You have the advantage. You could take their life, turn them in, scold them, harm them you are justified to do anything within the confines of the law to them and it may in fact be your only opportunity to do so; rather than do anything else, you are admonished by Jude to offer this person mercy. Unlike the first example of wielding mercy, in this case there is fear of the unknown. What will this person do to you with this newly gained freedom your mercy has provided?
- Will they harm you?
- Will they exact vengeance on you?
- Will they walk depart from you thankful?
To be honest, we are always willing and ready for the most part to offer mercy, however, the Congregation of God has grown weary in their wielding of the mercies of God in that we are taught there is only one way to wield mercy. We are commonly taught that we need to be good stewards. In most cases, being good stewards of what we are given is watered down and reduced as an excuse which props up the idea and concepts of not taking financial risks with their money. However, the Congregation considers this principle when referring to a poverty-stricken home. In this case, being a good steward means taking an extreme financial risk and giving out of their poverty. This principle is wielded in a manner that only insulates those with finances to risk.
If you are like me, you have never been taught or shown the idea of wielding mercy with fear, forgiving with fear, being gracious with fear, being kind with fear, etc. We are not taught that there are multiple ways to wield the sword of truth. If we were to ask the Congregation what the Bible meant by fear, or what they believe about fear, many people would tell us that they understand fear as a spirit. The Congregation will speak frequently about casting out the spirit of fear, the spirit of doubt or praying for the Lord to “change our minds” or “change our hearts”. Have you ever found yourself praying to learn how to show mercy with fear? Praying to learn how to forgive with fear? How to love with fear or even pray to learn how to give with fear?
For me, the idea of wielding mercy with fear is a revolutionary thought.
I should not be afraid of the outcome of showing mercy, forgiving or loving anyone and maybe that is what Jude is actually attempting to convey. Consider this, Doesn’t Jesus tell us to not only love our neighbor but also to love our enemy? Do you actually believe that your enemy loves you? Even if you love him or her? No one I know does. However, we have spent so much time thinking the ends must justify the means that we say, well this person won’t love me, or forgive me, or show mercy to me so I will not do that for them. In doing so, we take the light which Christ placed in our heart and place it under a bushel. Now that we have done that, we may never be given another opportunity to show that person mercy, forgiveness or love. Not to mention, we might even lose our ability to show others that know that person because we never showed that person. Now our preservation is useless. We are no longer salt, we are no longer light, we are merely a bundle of something we do not actually understand. We might have been shown mercy, we might have been shown forgiveness, we might have been loved, but when given the opportunity to prove our understanding of what we had, we failed.
I do not want to fail miserably.
That is not what I desire on my epithet,
“Justin was shown mercy, forgiveness and love but He was never able to reproduce it in a way that mattered.”
Remember, this journey is not so much about us as it is about introducing the world to Jesus Christ. There is a reason He left and gave us the Holy Spirit. That where He is, there we might one day be also. He is the Bridegroom preparing a place for us. Our “engagement ring” if you will is our symbol of His love and devotion to us, His bride. Not so that we can hide in the closet, party with each other behind four walls, get bored waiting and prostitute ourselves to the world but so that we might walk out into the world and show off the engagement ring and tell people about our Bridegroom who is going to be returning.
However, we are to do that by showing the world something they are NOT USED TO SEEING.
They need to be shown mercy, forgiveness and the love of God. We are Christ’s Ambassadors on earth and that is our mission. Even if we have to do so with fear of the repercussions.