Ever watched one of those YouTube videos where someone is preoccupied with their phone and walks into a pole or falls into a fountain? (Hopefully you haven’t been that person, but if you have, thank you for entertaining us and helping us with this metaphor.)

A lot can happen by not paying attention to what's around you – both to you and to others.

Last Saturday night at Campfire Church, Mark Z. shared a personal story to illustrate a similar idea of not paying attention to who is around you. There is an age gap between himself and his two younger siblings. When he left for college and focused on ministry, he lost some of the closeness with his siblings.

When you see someone only a few times a year, there’s a lot you miss. Especially during college days, many people focus on themselves and life becomes a lot about figuring out what’s next. School, career, personal life and ministry can take priority, but the focus is inward, on what’s best for you and your life instead of someone else’s.

The book of jude

We don’t often talk about this small book towards the end of the New Testament. It’s only one chapter long with a total of 25 verses, but the shortness doesn’t lack a strong message. Jude was writing to believers, but what makes his message intriguing is that Jude was Jesus’ half brother.

Before jumping into what Jude was communicating, think about the family dynamics for a bit of context: at one point in time, Jude did not believe Jesus was the son of God.. John 7:5 says that “even his own brothers did not believe in him.” Can you imagine? Your half brother travels around the country telling people that He’s God. He can walk on water and heals people of incurable diseases.

There may have been a little tension there. I wonder sometimes if Jesus’ brothers were a little upset with him sometimes for being God and all. Can you say, "perfect oldest child?"

At some point, however, Jude did believe Jesus. He starts his short message by calling himself a servant of Jesus Christ. The switch from unbelieving brother to believer and servant is a testament to Jesus' authenticity.

The selfie people

Jude writes to warn believers about ungodly people who have crept into the church and who were teaching falsely. They used God’s grace as an excuse for immoral behavior and denied Jesus. There are multiple metaphors listed here to describe them, highlighting their uselessness and harm for the church:

  • Shepherds who feed only themselves and not the sheep
  • Clouds without rain, blown around by the wind
  • Fall trees, with no fruit and uprooted (Jude says twice dead!)
  • Wild foaming waves of the sea
  • Wandering stars
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 4

In each of these metaphors and throughout Jude's letter, we see that their focus is on themselves. It’s like they were walking around taking selfies and posting them online to make themselves look good. Jude writes in verse 16 that these people “follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.”

A contrast

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
— Jude 20-21
Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
— Jude 22-23

Jude didn’t write only about those self-absorbed teachers; he gave a contrasting picture of what we should be like in verses 20-23. By continuing to develop our faith and by prayer, Jude encourages us to keep ourselves in God’s love. He highlights showing mercy to people who doubt and to save people as if “snatching them from the fire.” As another very strong picture, he directs us to show mercy even while hating the very clothes that have touched corrupted people.

If the ungodly teachers were focusing inward on themselves, Jude’s contrast of a merciful person who is looking to save someone by snatching them from a fire is a picture of someone who is looking outward. We need to look inward long enough to get a picture of who we are, but then look outward and build ourselves up in God’s love.

Tin foil And your challenge

Imagine a piece of tin foil. It’s kinda sorta reflective... you might be able to make out some of your features if you look long and hard enough. You’ll have to use a bit of your imagination to make out the details. It makes a pretty pathetic mirror, but like a mirror it doesn't show you beyond what you want to see.

If you walked around while trying to make out your features or examining your face, there’s a good chance you’ll miss something and hurt yourself or others. When we walk through life focusing on ourselves, we miss out on opportunities to be a part of someone else's life. We aren't called to live for ourselves but to live outward and save others. We are called to be like Jesus.

Is there somewhere in your life where you need to put the mirror down, look outward and be merciful to those who doubt and save others by snatching them from the fire?