March 22, 2007 • By Ed Wrather
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. - Jude 1:20-23 NKJV.
Many of you watched as I did when three Japanese fishermen attempted to rescue a 30-foot long whale that had been trapped in a bay near the island of Shikoku southwest of Tokyo. The whale turned on them hitting their boat. As a result, a fifty-eight year old man drowned. Two of the fishermen were saved.
What a frightening experience it must have been! The fishermen were trying to do the right thing and save a creature’s life, but instead one man lost his life. The fishermen must have known how dangerous something like that could become, but they tried to save the whale anyway.
Attempting to rescue someone spiritually can be difficult and even dangerous. Jude gives us this indication that some are easy to reach “on some have compassion making a distinction.” Many that I have led to the Lord have been exactly like that. They were ready to know the Lord; they were just waiting for someone to tell them the Good News of Jesus Christ. What joy to lead someone like that to the Lord! However, Jude indicates that there is another type of lost person who will not be so easy to lead to the Lord.
Jude speaks of the difficulty and the danger in attempting to reach some lost people. Jude writes, “…but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” This sounds like it might be as hard as rescuing a stranded whale that does not want to be rescued. “…save with fear.” What is there to fear of a lost person? Jude’s little letter was written primarily to warn of deceivers, false teachers who were trying to lead believers away from the true Christ. At the beginning of his letter Jude warns in verse 4, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” The danger in trying to lead these deceivers, false teachers to the truth was that you might yourself become deceived by them. So, a rescue of these people had to be done with caution and even “fear”.
In addition, to the dangers that Jude speaks of directly there are other dangers in attempting to lead some to the Lord. Trying to reach someone involved in sexual sins could result in your becoming bogged down in those sins as well. Trying to reach someone involved in substance abuse could result in your becoming addicted too. Trying to reach someone involved in financial illegalities might tempt you to try it yourself.
The Bible does give us some direction about how to proceed in dealing with these situations. In Galatians 6:1 the apostle Paul writes, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Although Paul is focusing on believers who have turned away his advice is also good for reaching out to those who have never believed. You must consider “yourself lest you also be tempted.”
Does this mean that we should not try to reach some people because it is too dangerous? It means that we should take precautions. It means that like the Japanese fisherman we should not try to rescue a whale by ourselves. We should include other believers in our plan of rescue and seek their advice and wisdom. Jude just prior to speaking of rescuing some with fear, gives perhaps the most important advice, which is to keep yourself very close to the Lord as he says, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”