22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
I wanted to briefly address Jude’s instructions to the Church to make a distinction on those we’re ministering to: Jude tells us to have compassion on some people, while on others, save with fear.
The reason I feel compelled to address this issue is because I often see brothers trying to apply one approach to the way they deal with people: sometimes the approach is based in the Word of God, which is good, and indeed, however we deal with people, it needs to be according to righteousness in the will of God, which is testified of in His word, but it is sometimes narrowly restricted to one side of God’s manifold (many-sided) wisdom.
But what this passage tells me is that a “one size fits all” approach to dealing with people is not Biblical.
HAVE COMPASSION ON SOME
3A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.
The word of God speaks of the bruised reed and smoldering ember: Jesus will not break the one who is already broken, neither will He quench the one who is flickering, rather, He binds up the brokenhearted and fans the flame that it might not go out.
I have seen ministers, especially those who do the work of an evangelist or street preacher, that approach their labors entirely from the perspective of breaking those they encounter. They have rightly observed that many people have become stubborn, and the softness of preaching in today’s generation lends itself to deception, so they come with foreheads of flint, as the LORD said He would cause Jeremiah the prophet to have a forehead of flint, but they do so in every situation.
Sometimes these men are this way because they have become “battle hardened” from always being forced to contend against the many lies and deceptions of the enemy: perhaps they lack pure spiritual fellowship with another brother because they have yet to find such fellowship in anyone, or, they have been put in an environment or position that has caused them to have to always contend more zealously for the faith.
Either way, I see that there is an error that is easy to fall into of not making a distinction on those whom we seek to minister to; it is easier to apply a cookie-cutter mold to how we minister into the lives of people, but it is not how we’re commanded to minister.
There are many people that have already been broken; the hand of the LORD has already weighed upon their life, their spirit has been humbled, and they have been pierced by the living Word of God! Likewise, there are souls weighed down by heavy yokes of discouragement and bound under bondage to ungodly guilt, and these souls need the healing hand of righteous men and women of God who have been perfected in the love of God to have compassion upon them, that they might receive the ministry of reconciliation to God with joy and gladness in their hearts!
BUT OTHERS SAVE WITH FEAR
Meanwhile, there is a great multitude of people who find themselves in an altogether different situation: they are being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin in their life and becoming dull of hearing to the point of deafness. Sin is ruling and reigning in their life and they are placing themselves under the wrath of God to be revealed in the final Day of Judgment. Still many more that have never “fallen upon the Rock of Christ to be broken”; their flesh remains alive, uncrucified, and dead in its transgression so that it cannot receive the life-giving Spirit of God because of unrepentance.
I see many more brethren falling into error by trying to bring compassion and understanding to those who merely take advantage of these tools to their very own destruction.
We sometimes watch as a brother begins to entangle himself in sin, and we say nothing, hoping that if we simply “lend a listening ear” and speak soft words to him, he will come to his senses and turn from destruction.
10Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.
5Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.
Yet there are people who ask for soft words precisely because of their rebellious hearts; they seek from God’s ministers a kind of cruel compassion that leads to their own destruction. As others have observed, there is a multitude of people who are being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and their only hope is that they would receive the treasure of the fear of God so that they might repent from their sins and be saved. To such people as these it is necessary that we preach in such a way as from the Lord, hating even the garment stained with sin! Therefore, God’s word tells us that “open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed”.
Sometimes when we conceal our love, the love of Christ that compels us to persuade men everywhere knowing the terror of the Lord (2nd Corinthians 5:11ff), we do more harm to the soul of the person we care about than would have been done by a timely rebuke.
I have seen proper discipline implemented in the Church and the value of preaching with the fear of God; the soul the is, for a time, turned away by these things, sometimes returns from his or her wandering when this blessed treasure, the fear of God, has its full work.
Sometimes I think people lean towards showing compassion on people because their experience appears to prove this to be “a more successful approach”; but I caution my brothers and sisters against this for the following reasons: I believe the reason this appears to be more successful is because the soul who is in the position of having already been broken is far easier to reach than the one who is as yet still unbroken and hardened. The person whose spirit has been humbled is always in a far better place than the one whose spirit is still exalted. While it appears that many more people are turned away by preaching the fear of God, I believe this is only because there are so few willing to humble themselves in the first place. What we are observing is merely different stages in a person’s life, either the point in which they turn away from God, or the point in which they turn to Him.
I hope this post can serve as an exhortation to encourage my brethren to learn to make a distinction on those whom they are ministering to, and not shy away from applying either one or the other tool.
May the grace and mercy of God abound to all my brethren, near and far off, as you receive the instruction of God’s grace and the salvation of His mercy, amen!