Boxed In

Laurie Buffo, Volunteer Writer, South Barrington | July 20, 2023

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Jude 22-23

There are two ways of trivializing grace. The first is what Jude warned against—using grace as a license to sin. We trample on grace when we shamelessly do things we have been set free from while counting on forgiveness. The second is to tie ourselves in knots, trying to be good enough not to need grace. I think a friend of mine approached Christianity the second way. 

My friend told me she was leaving the faith because it felt like a constricting little box. At first, I just listened. Then, I shared that the opposite was true for me. My experience was Jesus helped me break free from the box of shame I was in before I knew Him. In the conversations following, I have mostly listened. I think the problem is she never fell in love with Jesus and never let grace be a game-changer for her. Christianity could feel like a prison of rules and regulations without these two things.  

My friend is unlike the individuals Jude condemned. She does not try to undermine my faith. I am equally respectful of her journey to understand God. Still, today’s passage captured my attention. It made me wonder if I should be doing more than love and pray for my friend.

Jude encourages us to take the merciful approach in such situations. We are not to be self-appointed judges. Though some hate to admit it, we all have moments of doubt. Keeping this in mind, we can be merciful when others waver more significantly. At the same time, we are not to be apathetic. We need to take God’s judgment seriously. In addition, Jude cautions us not to allow others’ wayward thinking to jeopardize our faith and reminds us not to downplay sin. 

The book of Jude, with its disturbing talk of judgment, takes work to digest. Studying it reminded me of the gravity of my friend’s situation. Having been awakened by Jude, I will pray for the right approach and words of wisdom for my friend.

Next Steps 

When your dependence on grace gets off-center, which end of the spectrum do you lean toward? Are you an “act now, ask forgiveness later” type or an “I must be perfect” kind of person? How do these attitudes affect your receptivity to God’s love?

Anne Lamott said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.” Occasional doubts do not make us unfaithful; they make us human. Can you accept the messiness of faith? On the other hand, what keeps our wobbles from becoming faith-busting distrust? For a hint, see verse 21.

Do you know someone who has stepped away from faith? How can you best support them?