Mercy, Peace, and Love

“May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.”
Jude 2

“Have a nice day.”

How often do we wish others a “nice day?” When you check out at the store, it’s almost a competition to see who can get to this wish, and we’re read to reply “you too” in case somebody beats us to the punch. It makes for a pretty comical exchange when someone says something other than, “have a nice day,” and we still reply “you too.”  

When we say this, when we wish someone a nice day, we’re saying we hope their day is good, avoiding trouble and hardship; it is a subtle way to ask for a blessing over them. It is kind, it is good, but we really are powerless to do anything about whether or not they actually have a nice day.

I was thinking about this as I turned to Jude 2, when Jude finishes his greeting by praying that “mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” If you are familiar with the reminder of Jude, you know that he is about to launch into a tirade against the false teaching that had crept into the church, disrupting the peace and purity of the faith and witness of the believers. There is severe language of rebuke, correction, and coming judgment. It is notable then, that Jude would address his recipients with the prayer for mercy, peace, and love.  

This is a slight deviation from the normal apostolic address found in the NT letters; Paul usually begins with the prayer that the grace and peace of God in Jesus Christ be with you. The shift from grace to mercy isn’t that drastic, as Calvin reminds us, “Mercy means nearly the same as grace in the salutations of Paul. Were any one to wish for a refined distinction, it may be said that grace is properly the effect of mercy; for there is no other reason why God has embraced us in love, but that he pitied our miseries.” Mercy is God’s of kindness toward the covenant people, His patience in dealing with sinners, keeping us from the punishment we deserve.

The peace for which Jude prays is not the absence of conflict; as we will see, he will directly confront and tear down the false teachings that are corrupting the Church. Instead, the Biblical notion of peace suggests wholeness or wellness of being, the security that comes only through genuine fellowship brought about by the grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ.  It is this peace, the peace that results from forgiveness and reconciliation with God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that Jude desires for his audience.

Finally, Jude adds to the standard greeting of grace and peace the desire that love be multiplied among his readers. Whether this is God’s love for us, or our love for God is inconsequential; the one produces the other. Jude is praying that his audience may grow in their knowledge of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ, and that, in the knowledge of this love, they may grow in their love of God and for one another.

These three qualities are interwoven in the believer’s life. Mercy and pardon are the foundation of one’s relationship to God. Such forgiveness leads to peace with God, which in turn manifests itself in love. You can see, then, why Jude would pray that his readers would grow in mercy, peace, and love.

In asking that mercy, peace, and love be multiplied among his readers, is Jude simply wishing the people “have a nice day.” Certainly not. This is no empty passing wish, but a sincere prayer, that will be unfolded through the remainder of his letter.

Thomas Schreiner, in his commentary on Jude*, wrote, “The prayer wish anticipates themes developed in the rest of the letter. Jude prayed for mercy because his readers would resist the opponents only by God’s mercy and because they needed to experience God’s mercy so that they could extend the same to those captivated by the false teachers (vv. 22–23). They needed peace because the interlopers caused division (v. 19) and introduced strife and grumbling wherever they went (vv. 10, 16). They needed love because the intruders cared only for themselves and abused the very purpose of the love feasts (v. 12). Jude prayed that mercy, peace, and love would be multiplied because an abundance of these qualities was needed at a stressful time in the church’s life. He also prayed because he knew that only God can produce these virtues in the lives of his people.

As we face challenging days ahead in the life of the Church, as we desire to stand firm in our faith and hold fast to the truth, may we do so as we are strengthened in the mercy, peace, and love of God for us in Jesus Christ.

SDG

* Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.

Called, Beloved, and Kept

A few years ago I began a subscription to a news magazine. It is a trusted source for in depth articles and commentary on current news and politics. I am a digital subscriber to the magazine, which means I get direct access as soon as the magazine is published without having to wait for shipping; plus I have access to their online content, so I can stay up to date on the daily news that breaks between publications.

When ever I get correspondence from the magazine, I am addressed as a “valued subscriber.”  They are indicating the nature of our relationship. They value my contribution (money) which supports their publication. But as soon as I stop paying, that relationship is finished. They may continue to send me appeals to renew my subscription, but unless I act, I lose all the benefits that once came with my subscription. They relationship is dependent entirely upon my contribution.

I draw out what we all know to show the power of how Jude addresses the audience of his letter.  In my last post, I examined how Jude introduced himself at the beginning of his letter. How he identifies the audience says so much more.  He is writing to those who have been called, those who are beloved in God the Father, those kept for Jesus Christ.

Jude is addressing a particular congregation, but we don’t know which congregation, or where they were. We can assume that there were some Jewish believers in the church because of Jude’s heavy use of Old Testament illustrations, but that’s really all we know. 

To address his letter to the called, beloved, and kept, then, opens this letter to every believer, even to believers reading today. These three descriptors, called, beloved, and kept, make up the essence of our identity as believers.

We are called.  The word literally means to be invited, but we know from reading God’s Word that is carries much more significance.  Jesus said, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14).   To be called is to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the invitation to believe in Him, to trust in His righteousness, His perfect atoning sacrifice, His redeeming grace. Many will hear this call, but not everyone will respond, not all will believe.  

But those who do believe, those who do answer the call, do so because of the inward, effectual call of the Holy Spirit, who unplugs our ears that we may hear; who opens our eyes that we may see; who moves our hearts to repentance and love; and who gives life to our souls long slain by sin that we may respond to that call.

This is what it means to be called.  Ephesians 1 tells us that we were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. We have been called out of the kingdom of darkness and called into the kingdom of light. We have been called out of sin and death and into righteousness and life in Christ. This is the working of the Holy Spirit who calls us to new life. We are the called.

We are also the Beloved in God the Father.  Again, this is amazing.  We know, from the testimony of scripture and the witness of our own hearts that we, apart from God’s grace for us in Jesus Christ, were enemies of God and deserving of His wrath and judgment. We were, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2, “dead in our trespasses and sins… by nature children of wrath.” There was nothing in us that was lovable. “But,” as Paul goes on to say, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4-5).

This too is our identity. Not only have we been called (invited and chosen), we have also been loved by God. This love of God is a mercy, for we could not earn it, deserve it, or expect it. This love is eternal, as Eph 1 goes on to day, “In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will…” God did not have to be convinced to love us, Jesus didn’t die to pacify an angry God. Instead, God proved His for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Being beloved by God is closely connected to the foreknowledge of God that we read about in Romans 8:29, “For those he foreknew, he predestined…” This foreknowledge is not just having an abstract general awareness of something before it happened. It suggests an intimate, personal knowledge, a loving relationship. This is the love of God for His people. We are the beloved of God the Father.

Finally, we are those who are kept for Jesus Christ. Think of an inheritance, a savings bond that is growing to maturity, a bride that is kept in purity until the wedding day. This is who we are. We are kept, held fast, preserved, secured as the treasure of Christ. This is our great comfort, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, that I, “with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto him.”

This is who we are: The Called, The Beloved, and The Kept.

Notice how little your own activity is mentioned here. In fact, notice how Jude’s address is inherently Trinitarian (while he may not come right out and say it). We are called, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are beloved by the Father. We are kept for Jesus the Son. Our salvation, our identity in Christ, is rooted in the Father’s love, in Christ’s redeeming work, and in the Spirit’s uniting us to Christ and applying His redemption to us.

This is the one work of God for us, and because it is God’s work, it is sure and secure. This is who we are; who God’s Word calls us to be.  It’s even all the past tense to show that what God has determined is certain.

If you are in Christ, you are called, beloved, and kept. Don’t look elsewhere for your identity, don’t seek any other source of confidence or value. You are called. You are beloved. You are kept.

Rejoice in your salvation!

SDG