Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.
Jude 1:3 NLT
Jude begins his epistle by stating his reason for writing. Originally he wanted to write about salvation – sharing his insights and understanding of the gift God has given to all believers. But, he says, now he writes to urge the faithful to defend the faith that God has entrusted to them.
Some translations phrase this as “fight for” or “contend for” the faith. Now, I have to admit, this makes me a little nervous – because for some strains of the Christian faith, and for some individual Christians, this might be seen as a free reign to use any and all methods to uphold their understanding of the Christian faith. This is the mindset that lead to the Crusades and to other examples of Christians failing to be CHRISTIAN while they did what they believed needed to be done in order to safeguard the faith and/or to force the faith upon others.
It is a dangerous way of thinking. It ignores the call to peace, to the sanctity of human life, to the sacredness of our ability to choose our belief (or unbelief, for that matter).
The fact is the core of our faith – the person of Jesus Christ – doesn’t need our safeguarding. He’s the Lion of Judah and more than capable of defending himself. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t “defend,” “fight for,” or “contend for,” our faith. It does mean that we have to understand these terms differently.
I think we are called to defend our faith against the monotony of daily life – to find inspiration when everything seems pretty darned mundane. I think we are called to fight for our ability to love each other – especially when the ‘other’ seems utterly unloveable. I think we are called to contend for kindness and generosity when pettiness and selfishness are easier and more popular. I think we are called to be holy people in an unholy world.
These are hard battles to wage, and yet waging them is everything it means to live out our faith. Not in a way that wounds or alienates others, but in a way that points toward the light of salvation – the truth, the life and the way.
So may you – in humility, in peace, in kindness and love – defend, fight for and contend for your faith. May you live the life we are called to, as holy people in an unholy world.