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Bible Insights

Balance Freedom of Speech with Being Careful in What We Say

The Tongue Is a Dangerous Tool that We Must Tame

In one of his Psalms, David writes that he will be careful in what he says so that he doesn’t sin. He talks about putting a muzzle on his mouth (Psalms 39:1). He says nothing about having freedom of speech.

James is clear about the dangers of an uncensored tongue. A small part of our body, the tongue can do great harm, setting a whole forest on fire from the single spark of a careless word. What we say can corrupt our whole being, setting our life on fire, a fire born from hell (James 3:3-6).

Jude likewise warns about us saying too much. He writes about people who slander what they don’t understand, operating on instinct like irrational animals. In doing so we destroy ourselves (Jude 1:10).

Freedom of Speech

Today too many people assume that freedom of speech gives them the unfettered right to say whatever they want. In the process they often hurt others and risk making themselves look foolish. Or worse yet, their tongue causes them to sin.

They—and us along with them—will do well to put a muzzle on our mouth, to tame our tongue. We should use our words to praise God (Psalm 40:3) but never to cause harm to another. Watching our words with care will keep us from sin and setting our souls on fire.

Responsibility of Speech

As a society we will do well to follow David’s example, as well as James’s and Jude’s wise counsel. Instead, too many people grasp the concept of free speech that we can say whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want without a thought given to the consequences. Yet freedom of speech carries a responsibility. Our freedom of speech is not without limit. As followers of Jesus, we have a duty to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), to muzzle our mouth so that we do not sin, and to not say things that may harm others.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 36-40, and today’s post is on Psalms 39:1.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Who is Jude?

In the Bible, there is only one mention of a man named Jude. That lone reference occurs in the opening greeting of the letter that he wrote.

However, Jude is a variation of Judas. Apparently, Judas was a common name two thousand years ago:

  • Judas Iscariot: who betrayed Jesus
  • Judas (not Judas Iscariot): another follower of Jesus
  • Judas son of James
  • Judas the Galilean
  • Judas on Straight Street: whose house Saul (Paul) went to after his encounter with God
  • Judas (called Barsabbas): an early missionary
  • Judas, a brother of Jesus

We can rule out Judas Iscariot, because he committed suicide before this letter was written, while Judas the Galilean is an historical reference. That leaves five others for possible consideration.

Another clue is that Jude is the brother of James. There are also several James mentioned in the Bible. Do any of those men named Judas have a brother James? The answer is yes. Jesus had four brothers (technically half brothers): James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.

It is quite possible that Jude is Jesus’ brother. Regardless of who he is, it is his message—warning against ungodly people in the church—that matters.

[References: Jude 1:1, mentions of Judas, Matthew 13:55.]

Read about more biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Ungodly Men in the Church

The book of Jude—which I’ve blogged about quite a bit—addresses ungodly men in the church, not those outside the church.

Jude’s key passage is verse 11, where he compares ungodly men in the church to Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

Do not control sin, mix different religious ideas, and oppose God’s leaders. Click To Tweet

It’s noteworthy that each of these men has an overlooked connection with God, as do ungodly men in the church. Despite this, it’s their failings for which they are noted. But even in these, we may be looking at things too simplistically. Upon deeper consideration:

These examples give us pause. The ungodly in the church: do not control sin, mix different religious ideas, and oppose God’s leaders.

Given this, we have much to guard against, less we become the very people in the church that Jude warns us against.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Avoiding the Way of Cain

Cain kills Abel because he is jealous, jealous that his brother’s offering to God is accepted and his isn’t.

God knows what Cain is thinking—and urges caution. God directly tells Cain that he must rule over his sinful thoughts, the temptation to do wrong. But Cain doesn’t heed God’s advice and kills his brother.

The resulting murder may have been an act of rage or merely an extreme way of eliminating the competition. But either way, Abel ends up dead and Cain has blood on his hands.

We need to control our thoughts and desires to do wrong—a warning we all need to heed. Click To Tweet

Thousands of years later, when Jude advises followers of Jesus to avoid “the way of Cain,” he might be referring to murder or perhaps a jealousy that could lead to murder, but I suspect the warning is for something much more subtle.

I think when Jude says we need to avoid the way of Cain, he means we need to control our thoughts and desires to do wrong—a warning we all need to heed.

[Genesis 4:7, Jude 1:11]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

More Thoughts on Balaam

In reading the story of Balaam, it is difficult to see what he may have done wrong. Indeed, based on this record alone, he seems like an upstanding guy. Therefore, we can only speculate as to what his error might have been.

However, there are several other references to Balaam in the Bible. These all portray him in a negative light. Consider that Balaam:

  • Practiced divination (and was ultimately killed for doing so).
  • Taught and advised Israel’s enemies on how to distract them from God and sin against him.
  • Was willing to do the wrong thing, as long as there was remuneration.
  • Tried to curse Israel, which God turned it into a blessing. (This would explain why the king gave him three chances to issue a curse and why the king blamed God for Balaam not receiving his promised reward).

This certainly provides a different view of Balaam. Apparently he wasn’t so good after all. As such, he exemplifies an ungodly man within the church, just as Jude said.

[Numbers 22-24, Joshua 13:22, Revelation 2:14, Numbers 31:16, 2 Peter 2:15, Joshua 24:9-10, Deuteronomy 23:4-5]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Cain, Balaam, and Korah

In Jude’s brief exposition of ungodly people in the church, he evokes three Old Testament characters: Cain, Balaam, and Korah. Cain, we know to be a murderer; Balaam, greedy; and Korah, rebellious. 

However, it is simplistic to see them merely as evil men, for they also had an air of godliness to them, seeking God or having a connection to him.

It is astonishing, but each of these men did things that were seemingly right and godly. Despite that, the results of their actions went badly awry. The outcome renders them as emblematic of ungodly people in the church.

As we study what they did, we might find that we may be a lot closer to falling into their errors than we would normally dare to think possible.

Carefully consider then, the lives of Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is from Philemon and Jude, and today’s post is on Jude 1:11.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Jude Likes to Write in Triads

Jude writes his short letter to those who are called—that’s you and me. In it, he often writes in triads, listing three items or offering three examples. He does this with such regularity that when he deviates from this in verse 12, I thought I had misread the text.

Consider Jude’s triplets (and a couple of deviations):

  • Three actions of God: called, loved, and kept (and if you implicitly see the Holy Spirit in doing the calling, then the Trinity is implied here as well: Holy Spirit, Father, and Jesus); verse 1.
  • Three blessings: mercy, peace, and love; verse 2.
  • Three historic warnings: leaving Egypt, deserting angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah; verses 5-7.
  • Three negative actions: pollute their bodies, reject authority, and slander angels; verse 8.
  • Three bad examples: Cain, Balaam, and Korah; verse 11.
  • Five negative allusions: shepherds who feed only themselves, clouds without rain, dead autumn trees, wild waves, wandering stars; verse 12.
  • Three characteristics of ungodly men in the church: cause division, follow natural instincts, and do not have the Spirit; verse 19.
  • Three prescriptions: build up your faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, and stay in God’s love; verses 20-21.
  • Three ways to show mercy: help doubters, save others from destruction, and carefully rescue others without being taken down; verse 22.
  • Three attributes of God: keeps us from falling, presents us without fault, and has great joy; verse 24.
  • Four praises for God: glory, majesty, power, and authority; verse 25.

As someone who also has a propensity of writing in threes, Jude’s style is especially appealing to me.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is from Philemon and Jude, and today’s post is on Jude 1:1.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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A Servant of Jesus

In the post, “Who is Jude?,” I speculated that Jude might be Jesus’ brother. Aside from that, we only know one other thing about him.  Jude views himself simply as “a servant of Jesus.”

Today, in a time when religious people parade their titles and promote their education as if they were badges of godly distinction, someone who calls himself a servant would be shockingly counter-cultural.

When people introduce themselves as “Reverend,” “Bishop” “Elder,” “Doctor,” “Prophet,” or my favorite, “Reverend-Doctor” so-and-so I wonder about their motives.

Who are they trying to impress? Others? God? Or maybe it’s a futile attempt to convince themselves they are someone who they truly know they are not.

How refreshing it would be for someone to simply say that he or she is a servant of Jesus. What a great and significant credential it would be, perhaps the best one possible.

I don’t think titles and degrees mean much to Jesus; he is looking for servants. After all, Jesus himself said he came to serve. Shouldn’t we—as his followers—do the same?

[Jude 1:1, Matthew 20:28]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

A Failure to Understand the Book of Jude?

I’m doing a series of posts about the short and often overlooked book of Jude. Jude’s letter is a warning, almost a rant, about ungodly people who are in the church.

Among their sordid characteristics, Jude says that they “speak abusively against whatever they do not understand.”

That seems to be an accurate description of what I often hear when people talk about others who hold differing spiritual perspectives.

This is perhaps most pronounced within Protestantism, with its three major divisions and 42,000 disparate denominations. (See my posts about unity for more info.)

This idea of speaking against what is not understood not only occurs from within the major religions, but also between them.

It seems that many Christians fear Muslims, but I understand that many Muslims also fear Christians.

While there are historical reasons behind this (consider the crusades, for instance), the main cause today is a lack of understanding about the beliefs and practices of others (setting aside the radical fringe that is found in every group).

As an alternative to speaking against what is not understood, is Paul’s encouragement to “speak the truth in love.” That beats hateful rhetoric every day.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Are You the One?

John the Baptist sits in jail, about to be executed. In a dark moment, his faith begins to waiver. Seeking assurance, he sends his followers to Jesus, with the simple question, “Are you the one?

This question reminds me of the movie The Matrix where people keep asking Neo, “Are you the one?” Some think he is, some aren’t sure, and some doubt, but all are wondering. All that is, except for Morpheus, who plainly proclaims to Neo, “You are the one.”

Morpheus’s simple statement of faith to Neo reminds me of Peter’s confident confession to Jesus, when he plainly proclaims, “You are the Christ.”

Tapping movie references to illuminate a biblical passages are frequently done and helpfully presented. However, if someone were to consider an illustration like this 2,000 years in the future, or even a couple of centuries hence, they would be confused.

They would not know of Neo or Morpheus. They would not have watched The Matrix and our modern cinema would likely be a mystery to them.

What clarifies today would be confusing later, just as some of Jude’s cryptic references in his letter where helpful back then, but are confusing today.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.