Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Jude 21-23
Or, maybe I don’t choose mercy and compassion. I certainly don’t demonstrate both all of the time, not even one all of the time. I have been told by several people that my spiritual gift is mercy. In that case, I have not chosen mercy, but the Spirit has chosen it for me. I don’t intend to exposit the letter of Jude. I only want to share some things that I have been thinking about over the past few days, weeks.
I do tend to avoid the topic of hell and I never attempt to instill fear in people when I discuss the gospel (not my motive). The word gospel actually means “good news.” People will respond to the love of Christ. Give people space, we look for immediate results, stop. And I rarely (almost never) compel others to make an immediate decision about their eternity. I plant seeds, specifically the seeds of the gospel, love, mercy, and compassion. I am very careful because I don’t want anyone to make a decision based upon my desire, or any pressure that I may cause, or because they just want me to leave them alone.
I have been teaching for three years now. I have learned that people will act like people, and children will act like children. I do not undermine the potential capability for rapid growth, but such growth is rare. Change (growth) takes time, and much of what I teach does not result in immediate change. I am learning. It takes love, mercy, and compassion to exercise necessary patience (to make a difference). I have also learned, listening to me despite my hypocrisy and slow change requires patience from others. And so I thank those who demonstrate the love and mercy of God as they make a difference in my life. Our relationships are cyclical and reciprocal, aren’t they? Practicing empathy, always, is necessary if we are to keep ourselves in the love of God. As we recognize His mercy in our lives.
There is a contrast, some save (rescue) with fear. I am not opposed to the teaching of hell. I have read some excerpts and listened to sermons written and recorded by annihilationists. Annihilationism presents the idea that people (who reject Christ) will not suffer in hell, but that at an appointed time, decided by God, they will cease to exist. I wish that this was true. Since it is not, we must face the reality of hell. In my evangelistic efforts I rarely discuss hell. I will leave that to those evangelists discussed in the latter section of Jude, verse 23. I do understand the serious nature of hell.
I am opposed to those who preach hell out of context. Jesus vaguely defines hell. We do not know all of the details, yet some people like to fill in the gaps with their own philosophy based upon some ambiguous descriptions. I cringe a little every time I hear a preacher say, “Jesus talked more about hell than he did heaven.” And I have heard that particular phrase many times. The truth, Jesus talked about love more than He talked about hell. If you read what Jesus says about hell, you can see for yourself, that when He talked about the judgment of hell, He was talking to the pharisees (the religious crowd… false teachers). The reason that he spoke about hell with the pharisees, because they would not listen to His message of forgiveness and love. They were so focused on the law and following rules to gain favor with God. He had to step up His message, incite some fear.
There was no reason to incite fear in the hearts of people who were already listening to His message. They wanted to listen to Him and follow Him. What can we learn from this, two thousand years after Christ? Maybe the religious people, those who claim to know God, who are not following Christ (false teachers), need to experience some fear. If you are an evangelist and your method is fear. Share the gospel in context. Like Jesus, incite fear as a last resort, and only with someone whom you know well enough to absorb the message. Don’t walk up to people who you don’t know and frighten them with hell, please don’t.