“May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.”
“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.
* Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.