Conspiracy theories, alternate realities, rash prophecies, disinformation, and big lies are ancient techniques used to create fear—and subsequently claim the only solution to calm it—thus gaining followers. While disturbing in the sociopolitical sphere, I find these especially troubling when supported, spread, or believed by those representing Jesus. How do I respond? What do I focus on amid myriad speculations, half truths, and fake news?
Jude—Mary of Nazareth’s younger son, the half-brother of Jesus—started his letter to the called, loved, and kept with one goal in mind, but felt compelled to write about something else instead. He believed grave circumstances necessitated teaching them to contend for the faith. I think Jude would say the same today.
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.Jude 1:3–4 NIV
Jude doesn’t say I am to contend for a particular author or speaker, government leader, or even my pastor. He isn’t asking me to fight against propaganda and outrageous theories. This isn’t about current affairs, political persuasions, or nationalistic pride. It’s not even about what I think is true.
Rather, Jude wants me to struggle for the faith—everything that Jesus and the apostles taught. Today, we call this the core doctrines, the basics, the beliefs that define Christianity and followers of Jesus.
Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life . . . then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.1 Corinthians 15:3–4,21–26 NLT
I cannot wrestle for what I do not know. Therefore, Jude is indirectly instructing me to know the faith—read the Bible, be familiar with its contents, learn how to study hermeneutically, and understand the different interpretations given by scholars. Just as experts learn to spot counterfeit bills by studying real ones, I learn to recognize what is not of the faith by immersing myself in the faith. This means I can’t just find someone that I “like” and blindly believe whatever they say, write, or tweet.
Jude tells me that knowing the faith will help me recognize ungodly people that secretly slip into my circles—those who deny Jesus by saying that his grace gives me freedom to pursue immorality. (Jude has much more to say about ungodly people so I’ll get to them in future posts.)
Jude doesn’t tell me to attack, confront, debate, or accuse. Rather, in contending, he is instructing me to wrestle, struggle, or agonize like an athlete in an intense contest.
Other scriptures describe how to contend. Be on guard, alert (Acts 20:31). Be wise and speak graciously (Colossians 4:5–6). Be ready to gently and respectfully give a response when asked (1 Peter 3:15). Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19). Arguing and quarreling is definitely out.
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.2 Timothy 2:23–26 NIV
Contending for the faith not only means I must first know the faith, it also means the faith is the criteria by which I evaluate those I listen to. Sometimes in my desire to think the best of everyone, to give others the benefit of the doubt, to not judge, to allow time for change, or simply because I like what I’m hearing, I fail to recognize or admit that someone might fit into this category Jude is describing.
Lastly, contending means that, as Jude was compelled by the Holy Spirit, I too must listen to the Spirit’s nudging in my heart (John 16:13). Rather than feeling offended and speaking out in anger, I wait, pause, and reflect on when and how to respond. I …
1. Check my motive—Why do I want to say something? Is this about me, the church, our reputation? Or am I truly concerned for the other person? 2. Check my wisdom—Have I first wrestled (contended) with the principle, behavior, or doctrine I feel I need to address? Have I studied scripture, prayed, asked for God’s discernment and direction, or sought council? 3. Check the Spirit—Is the Holy Spirit directing me to speak? Is there another voice that might speak more effectively? 4. Check my attitude—What am I feeling? Annoyed, angry, hurt, superior? Do I need to change my attitude before responding? 5. Check my authority—Do I have a relationship with this person? Have I earned the right to speak by first listening and being a loyal friend? Have I first examined my own life for potential hypocrisy? 6. Check my knowledge—Do I know what’s actually going on? Do I have the context, facts, the whole story? First or second-hand accounts? 7. Check my method of delivery—Is this the best way, time, and place to say something? 8. Check my content—What should I say? Is this a core doctrine or a secondary issue? Do I need to say everything or maybe only one thing? 9. Check my timing—Perhaps God wants me to silently pray instead of speaking up? 10. Check my tone—Can I speak with gentleness, graciousness, and respect? Will love or annoyance be heard in my tone? 11. Check the outcome—How will my words affect future interaction? How can I speak in such a way as to invite more dialogue, not end it?
Lord God, I so need your wisdom. Contending for the faith sounds hard. Teach me first how to wrestle with your scriptures in order to know you more intimately, understand what you want, and do it appropriately. Help me identify whatever is not of the faith. Help me to be discerning as I observe people in my circles. Help me to not be like a mindless sheep following only those that tell me what I want to hear. Teach me to recognize the Holy Spirit’s nudging so I might know when to speak out. And Lord, let my contending for the faith build bridges, inviting further dialogue and interaction, not walls that cut off fellowship and shut down opportunities to influence. Give me your grace and love in this difficult area.
Disinformation = false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth
Big Lie = a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
Regarding what I consume and listen to in media, I found these evaluation questions from Kaitlyn Schiess to be very helpful:
- What is this asking me to love?
- Who is it asking me to fear? Or hate?
- What kind of good life is it describing?
- How can I be conscious of that so I recognize where it doesn’t line up with what scripture tells me?