The church should stand at the ready to confront sin and error. Jude warned Christians that doctrinal viruses would sweep into local churches, destroying the healthy bodies who host them. To handle spiritual pandemics well, the local church should readily quarantine the fake Christians, flushing out false doctrine. If the wicked refuse to repent, the church should then force them out of the body, following the steps laid out in Matthew 18. But even the best prevention methods can fail. False teachers can infect health believers while the church awaits the surgical processes of church discipline. When the viruses of error begin to infect true believers, the local church must stand at the ready to care for those spiritually ill. Jude writes,
And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (22-23)
Jude calls his readers to rescue three types of Christians, the doubting, the almost destroyed, and the filthy.
When men and women stumble into church exhausted by sin and the unstable messages of culture, they need mercy instead of rebuke. The woman whose homosexual desire that causes her to doubt the convictions of her faith should be meet with softly spoken spiritual truth. The man who questions the humanity of Christ should be welcomed into his pastor’s office. And the teenager who comes to church wrestling with the truthfulness of the Bible should be invited to voice his questions so that he can find biblical answers. The soul who doubts should not be criticized for doubting but shown mercy. Christ continual forgives us when we wonder from the foundations of our faith. Can we refuse to extend to others what God has given to us?
Secondly, we need to be ready to snatch some from the fire. Some brothers and sisters move from questioning the commands of God to leaving the commands of God. When a friend calls to say they will leave their spouse in the morning to pursue their one true love, we should run to their home and plead with them to forsake their sin. When a nephew tells us they have decided to undergo gender reassignment surgery, we should ardently call them back the joy of Christ. And when our college friend tells us they are going to join the Mormon church, we should contend with them, calling them to return to sound doctrine. If we do not warn them, these men and women will ingest sin into their souls and will experience the firers of hell. When we see or hear of brothers or sisters about to step in front of the bus of destruction, we should snatch them from the fires doom.
Lastly, we need to have mercy with fear. Some go behind doubting and preparing for sin. They become infected by sin refusing to follow the quarantine guidelines of truth. We will come across men and women who have welcomed sin into their soul and deemed it to be a sign of grace. To such Christians, we are to show mercy with fear. We are to remind our immoral friends that sexual immorality in all of its forms ends in judgment. When a friend slaps the coexist bumper sticker onto his car and proclaims that all ways road lead to heaven, we are to rebuke him. And when a women proclaims that gossip can cohabit with the gospel, we must clearly denounce her as a fraud. Jude says such people wear stained garments. The expression means, these Christians have stained underwear. To welcome those who have wet the spiritual bed into our churches is to welcome all kinds of worldly filth into the kingdom of God. Instead of embracing their sin, Jude calls us to hate it. We are to unequivocally call those infected by sin to repentance. If they will not repent, we must remove them according to the procedures laid out by Matthew 18. If love filth, our churches will become the filth. We must show mercy with fear.
Spiritual virus will come. Are we ready to care for the sick, rescuing the doubting, snatching others from hell, and confronting those stained by the world? Are you ready?