Saturday, 8 August 2020
And on some have compassion, making a distinction; Jude -22
For the past two verses, Jude has focused on the individual and what he is to do for himself. Today he changes track and brings in the state of others. The Greek in this particular phrase is difficult and source texts vary in what is said. Even when the same source text is used, there are variations in how to properly translate what is given.
Young’s Literal Translation, using the same text as the NKJV, says, “…and to some be kind, judging thoroughly.”
The NIV, using a text with a variant reading says, “Be merciful to those who doubt.” This seems to make more sense as a stand-alone thought, whereas the quote from the NKJV above needs verse -23 to be understood fully. Either way, the focus is on us as believers to look to others who have doubts about the faith and deal with them compassionately.
Sticking with the text which forms the basis for the NKJV, it reads, “And on some have compassion.” This certainly does not mean to not have compassion on some. It is the obligation of believers to pray for and evangelize even the vilest of offenders (even if it is awful hard to do). What it means is that particular compassion is to be addressed towards those who are lost in bad doctrine, but who obviously want to know the truth (and similar situations). This is certain based on the next verse to come where Jude speaks of pulling them out of the fire.
We are to be attentive to the situation of people and respond accordingly. Some people love the pit of false doctrine they are in. They benefit from it, they have control of others because it, they may have fame and fortune tossed in their direction as a result of it. Jude is calling for discernment in where we focus our attention. When a person who needs specific compassion is identified, he is to be given it. In this, we are “making a distinction.”
This is comparable to the “judging thoroughly” of the YLT noted above. There is little point wasting one’s time on someone who revels in their perversion, unsound doctrine, heretical viewpoints, and so on. To call them out on it, or to even show compassion for them because of it, actually only boosts their desire to double down and promote what they teach even more. They are like the charmed snake that bites at the charmer or the dog that turns and bites the one who feeds it. Therefore, believers are to judge each situation, make a right distinction, and focus their attention on those who are reachable and who may be willing to turn to the truth. Jesus speaks of such discernment in Matthew 7:6, saying, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”
Life application: There is a giant difference between those who are belligerent and those who simply question out of real doubt. Belligerent people are looking for an argument and will often come to the table acting innocently – “I just want to know…” However, they have already made up their minds and are actually just setting a trap for those who are willing to supposedly guide them. Their innocence turns to attack after attack about the veracity of the Bible, its reliability, etc. True doubters will respond with gratitude and hopeful contemplation, but the argumentative type simply become more bull-headed in their challenges.
This is a very common way of getting people to begin to doubt their own understanding of difficult verses, and so Christians need to be aware of this type of shenanigan. The true doubters may or may not come to Christ, but they will at least maintain a spirit of fellowship and dignity during the seeking process. So, when you talk to others about the Bible, make a distinction between a true doubter and a perverse contrarian.
There is a point where arguing a point no longer serves any function except to waste time and idle away one’s ability to help others who are truly wanting answers. However, it is also good to be careful and not misjudge the one who is truly looking to understand what is presented and who comes back, again and again, looking for an answer. This may be perceived as being argumentative, but this may not be the intent at all. Patience is needed, something that can be hard to provide when valuable time is short. So, be attentive to such things and be ready to make reconciliation when division over misperceived intent arises.
Glorious God, we have faced perverse people who love to challenge the truth of Your word while disguising their challenge as honest seekers with legitimate doubts. We may have wasted time and effort in the process. This is frustrating. And so, we would ask You to keep these people at arm’s length from us so that we can focus on what is truly important – honest seekers with real questions. Amen.