This past week I received a forwarded email from the friend of a close family member. I don’t normally get overly excited about forwarded emails, but this one told a true story that caused me to perk up a little. It told the story of a woman who, though she was a follower of Christ, did not share her faith with others much. She was diagnosed with cancer some time later, and suddenly she found herself in the position to share her faith with many people who were in a similar position as she was – facing their mortality. The overall point of the forwarded email was that “there’s an eternal reason why you are where you are occupationally, geographically, situationally, parentally, physically, emotionally, maybe even medically.”* And that reason is you are in a unique position to share your faith with a unique group of people.
When it comes to my spiritual walk, the hardest thing for me to do is share my faith. I don’t know why, but for some reason I have the hardest time “pushing my beliefs” on someone else. Little voices go off inside my head that tell me to mind my business or respect people’s privacy. The voices in my head say that talking about religion and politics are personal issues, and that most of the time it only leads to conflict. And I despise conflict, so I just don’t talk about my faith with others, regardless of what I know about their beliefs. In our culture today, this sounds pretty reasonable – anyone who “pushes their beliefs” on others is usually labeled as intolerant, or even judgmental. You can’t tell someone that you have the truth and you want to share it with them without also implying that what they believe is wrong. This isn’t a popular thing to do in today’s society.
Unfortunately for someone like me, the Bible doesn’t teach that this kind of behavior is admissible. The passage I studied today was Jude, verses 1-4:
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Broken down and taken in context of all of Scripture (which is a big part of what this study pushes the reader to do), you can take the following from this passage:
- “…to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ…” Jude, the author of this book, and who is believed to be the brother of Jesus (see Matthew 13:55), is addressing fellow believers. We know this because these terms are used in multiple places in Scripture. Paul calls himself “called” and “set apart” in Romans 1:1, and in Romans 8:28, Paul equates those who are “called according to His purpose” with “those who love Him…” The phrase “kept by Jesus Christ” can be compared to later uses of this word in this book, where those who are “kept in darkness” and have “the blackest darkness” kept for them, are those who are against the message of Christ (nonbelievers).
- “…although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” The Greek word for contend is epagonizomai, and its root word, agone, is the Greek word that we use to derive our English word agony. So what Jude was saying here is that he urges believers to agonize over the faith. This, to me, meant that pain or suffering must be involved (to be in agony), but the word agonize can also mean “to put forth great effort of any kind” (Dictionary.com). He is telling his fellow believers to put much effort into sharing the faith with those around them. The “faith” that he is speaking of can be looked at in two ways. The same term for faith is used in Galatians 6:10, where it talks about “those who belong to the household of faith” (HCSB). The NIV translates this as “those who belong to the family of believers.” Also, in 1 Timothy 4:1 it says “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons,” comparing the teaching of demons with the faith. Therefore, the faith Jude is talking about can be seen as either belief, such as in Galatians 6:10, or as a teaching or message, such as in 1 Timothy 4:1. Finally, he says that this faith was “entrusted to the saints.” The word saint comes from the Greek word Hagios, which means “holy, set apart…” Just as Paul spoke of himself as being “called” and “set apart” in Romans 1:1, all believers are called and set apart, and to be set apart is to be a saint. So again, Jude is referring to all believers.
- “…certain men…have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” Here Jude says that there are those who have slipped in and are teaching a lie among them, using the grace of God as a tool to bypass and disregard God’s rules.
Voddie Baucham ended today’s study with a quote from Charles Spurgeon: “A lie travels around the world while Truth is putting on her boots.” The same is true of our faith. If we don’t represent the Truth in the world, there are those who will misrepresent it, and will lead many astray. The world is getting the wrong message about Christ, and it’s up to me to correct that message. I’m in a unique position to do this, so I have to start sharing my faith – the faith – with those around me, or else it won’t be shared at all.
*Forwarded Email: The Mid-Week Spiritual Lift. Tom McCallister Ministries, July 28, 2010.