Contending For The Faith

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord…

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies…

Jude 1:3-4, 7-8

Jude wanted to write to the church a message about the salvation that we share in Christ. Instead, because he saw an insidious kind of corruption and theology seeping into the church, he encouraged the believers to contend for the faith that had been handed down to them.

He saw a teaching slipping into the church community through people who were perverting God’s grace into a license for immorality. They were also rejecting Jesus alone as Christ and Lord. Sound familiar? It seems as though the same false teachings just get repackaged and reused in future generations. The enemy isn’t creative.

Jude mentions that the perversion of homosexuality and the sexual immorality of promiscuity and rape that made Sodom and Gomorrah infamous were the kinds of things that these false teachers were getting into. This is how they were abusing grace to be a license for immorality. They were spreading the lie that grace allowed them to participate in such things. Jude makes clear, however, that this sexual license was polluting their bodies.

Jude has a lot of colorful metaphors to describe these false teachers:

shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

Jude 1:12-13

Unfortunately, today we are much more accepting of these sorts of teachings in the church. We don’t have such colorful metaphors describing this sort of teaching and people who promote these ideas. We simply call it liberal protestant theology.

The truth is that grace empowers us to be set free from sin; it doesn’t keep us trapped in sin with a bonus get-out-of-jail-free card. The truth is that Jesus alone is Lord! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This is the Christian faith that was once and for all entrusted to us by the earliest believers. This is the faith we hold to despite the cultural milieu of our day.

Unforgivable sins

If the American Christian would read the Bible, they would find it both life-giving and supremely challenging to our cultural norms. Scripture has a way, in one sentence sometimes, of preventing us from feeling smug in our little divisions between progressive and conservative. God doesn’t play favorites when He’s calling us to holiness. Both sides fall under conviction.

A good example of this is when Paul writes to the Ephesians, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people”(Ephesians 5:3). What is absolutely brilliant about this is that in one verse, God dismantles the pet sins of the Right and the Left.

The unforgivable sin in progressive Christian circles seems to be greed. Yet, and I know I am stereotyping here, progressives tend to overlook sexual sin in general. Sex outside of marriage? No problem if you “love” the person. Sleeping around? Normal sexual development. Pornography? Sure, if it helps your sex life. Homosexuality? Born that way. Masturbation? Healthy and normal. Adultery? Maybe don’t do this one unless your partner gives you the green light. There seems to be a justification for nearly every sexual sin that is out there. So when a progressive comes upon a Scripture passage that says there shouldn’t even be “a hint of sexual immorality” they are forced to ignore it or manipulate it to fit their worldview. It’s totally disruptive to the typical progressive mindset.

Yet, in conservative Christian circles, the unforgivable sins tend to be in the category of sexuality. But greed is rarely discussed as a sin. The greedy are described as billionaires, but everyone else is safe from this sin. The greed of ignoring the material needs of others is explained away as a personal choice. To talk about the systemic greed in the investment banking world or the corporate world is anathema. To do so could mean expulsion from the country club. So when a Scripture essentially says that greed is as immoral as sexual sin, it is totally disruptive to the typical conservative mindset.

God, through His Word, doesn’t let us have pet sins. Maybe one way to help each group is to frame the pet sin in the language of their unforgivable sin.

To the progressive Christians, what God is saying is that to have even a “hint” of sexual sin is to be morally greedy with physical intimacy. The same greed that collects millions of dollars will also collect sexual partners and sexual perversions. To conservative Christians, material greed is essentially fiscal promiscuity. Corporate greed is economic pedophilia. Maybe using stark language like this can help each group have more of a visceral reaction against the true nature of sin.