“Have Mercy on Those Who Doubt…” (Jude 22)
A week before the start of my 5th grade year, our teacher fell from the roof of his house breaking, if I remember correctly, his hip and leg, and would be out of the classroom for the first semester. While tragic, there was a part of me that was overjoyed. This particular teacher had a reputation for being tough on students. My older brother had him for a teacher and told me all sorts of stories. Plus, our substitute for the semester was a new, young, female teacher – everyone was happy!
That was until the start of the second semester. When our regular teacher returned, he felt it was his mission to whip us into shape, to correct the inadequacies of the substitute’s teaching methods. There were push-ups for wrong answers. He tapped his cane like Thor’s hammer on our desks to get our attention. There was a lot more yelling involved than the first semester. Generally, it was a miserable experience.
I wonder, then, if this was the temptation that Jude experienced in his letter to the Church. He wanted to write to them about their common salvation in Jesus Christ, but because of the false teachers who had crept in and twisted the gospel into a license for sensuality and rejecting the Lord and Master Jesus Christ, he instead had to plead with them to contend for the faith. Hearing of how they had been deceived and deluded, one response could have been like the return of our 5th grade teacher, “The beatings will continue until moral improves!”
Instead, Jude gives gracious instruction, “Have mercy on those who doubt.” Those who have been led astray by the false teachers, who are struggling with doubts, questions, worries, and fears, show them mercy. Don’t come down with wrath, judgment, or an air of superiority. Be gentle with them and avoid vilifying those who are honestly and humbly struggling with some aspect of the faith. They are still in the faith, though they may have doubts, so encourage them in mercy and kindness.
How we need to be reminded of this today! Too often, in times when we are feeling particularly content in our own righteousness, we sit in evaluation of others faith and wonder why they’re not as mature as we are. We grow impatient with others continued struggle with sin, their slow growth in faith and fruitfulness in the Spirit, and we vent our frustration, “shouldn’t they know better by now?!?”
So Jude reminds us to show mercy. Mercy is the withholding of judgment, exercising instead, patience, kindness, and compassionate care. Mercy is born from a humble and honest self-evaluation. Mercy is the recognition that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” Mercy is forgiving not seven times, but seventy times seven. Mercy is the means by which we know the grace and favor of God in Jesus Christ, therefore we are to be merciful to others as well.
To quote from Shakespear’s Merchant of Venice:
The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God Himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.