Jude: Anything Goes…Not!

Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The short book of Jude has so much in common with 2 Peter that it seems to me like one must be quoting the other, or perhaps the two authors worked together.  Jude’s warnings against false teachers and the metaphors he uses to describe them are almost word-for-word the same as those found in 2 Peter 2. Both letters are concerned with the problem of antinomianism, the idea that Christians were not subject to any moral or ethical constraints whatsoever. They were free to do absolutely anything they wanted to. Because of their faith in Jesus, God’s grace would cover any sin they might commit.

Both Jude and Peter say in no uncertain terms that this is not true. It is a perversion of the gospel of grace to say that “anything goes”, and God is not pleased with those who take that position. The Christian may no longer have to follow every detail of the Mosaic law, but he does have to follow the law of love. I believe that is what Jesus meant when he said he came not to abolish, but to fulfill the law and the prophets. The law of love is a principle rather than a set of rules; one that transcends time and place. If you follow the law of love, there are things you cannot do. You can’t murder  You can’t steal. You can’t seduce your best friend’s partner. You can’t lie or gossip in ways that result in harm to others. You can’t be greedy.  The law of love doesn’t abolish, but expands the scope of moral behavior, as Jesus taught when he equated the kind of anger that leads to hate with murder. A Christian today might be able to eat bacon-wrapped shrimp, but he shouldn’t use social media to spread lies or to harass people.

The “intruders who pervert the grace of God into licentiousness” that Jude condemns so strongly seem to have been the sort who used people for their own personal advantage. “These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage. ” Jude compares them with some notoriously evil figures in Israel’s past: the people of Sodom who sought to entertain themselves by gang-raping visitors; Cain, who murdered his own brother in a fit of jealous anger; and Balaam, who betrayed his own people for financial gain. He warns that people who misuse other people will not get away with their bad behavior forever. God’s love and God’s justice are two sides of the same coin, and God acts to rescue the abused from their abusers.

Jude reminds me that we are free to operate under the law of love, but we are not free to do anything we want without regard for other people. And that’s good news to me.