Fight for the faith!

by jacobjuncker

This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 8, 2015.

Reading: Jude 1-4

Jude, tradition suggests, was the brother of Jesus and James. I’d like to think he was the youngest, younger than both Jesus and James (cf. Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). He had a hard time believing at first that Jesus, his oldest brother, was anything special. I suppose it can be difficult to see how your older sibling—the one who pestered you relentlessly—could be the savior of the world. Nevertheless, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension it became clear to Jude that Jesus was more than just an older brother, he was the Christ (cf. Acts 1:14). It is quite likely that after his conversion, he became a missionary spreading the Good News of God’s love to all who would listen (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:5).

In the opening sentences of the letter, Jude shares that he “wanted very much to write…concerning the salvation we share” (Jude 3a). He was eager to write about the way in which he had witnessed God’s love transforming his life, the community and the world. Instead, writes Jude, “I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish” (Jude 3d, The Message). Fight for the faith (cf. Jude 1:3, Common English Bible).

We fight for things we think are important. We defend things that matter to us.

If you love something or someone, you will defend it. If you’re married, would you not do all you could to defend the honor of your spouse? What about your children, if you have any? What about our own reputations?

If we are willing to offer defense for all of these, how much more should we be willing to offer a defense for the gospel? If we truly love Jesus and if we care about the well-being of…the Church, we must contend.[1]

We must struggle in opposition, compete, strive to debate and dispute earnestly[2] any false accusations and perversions of the Gospel, because if we who call ourselves Christians don’t, who will? It’s not the responsibility of those who don’t believe to defend the gospel. It’s ours. Paragraph 130, one of my favorite paragraphs in The United Methodist Book of Discipline (the covenantal book which describes how United Methodists agree to live and serve God together) says it this way:

The people of God, who are the church made visible in the world, must convince the world of the reality of the gospel or leave it unconvinced. There can be no evasion or delegation of this responsibility; the church is either faithful as a witnessing and serving community, or it loses its vitality, and its impact on an unbelieving world.

Fight for the faith.

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Not only Christianity, but religion in general is on the decline in the United States. In the last 8 years, the people who say they believe God exists has dropped 8%, religious affiliation has dropped 6%, and those who think religion is a vital part of their life and are deeply committed to it dropped by between 3-4%.[3] The decline of religion in the United States, is being driven in large part by a millennial generation (those born between 1981-1996) that is entering adulthood separated from faith and/or turning their backs on it.

In 2007, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons wrote a book entitled UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…And Why it Matters. In it they describe in detail six perception of the church and how, from an evangelical perspective the Church should respond.

  1. Christians say one thing but live something entirely different.
  2. Christians are insincere and concerned only with converting others.
  3. Christians show contempt for gays and lesbians.
  4. Christians are boring, unintelligent, old-fashioned, and out of touch with reality.
  5. Christians are primarily motivated by a political agenda and promote right-wing politics.
  6. Christians are prideful and quick to find faults in others.

To be honest, I don’t want to be associated with a group of people that acts and believes like that. Living into those perceptions is not what Christ had in mind when he ascended into heaven and sent out his disciples to carry on his work of outreaching love to the world.

We must fight for the faith. It’s dwindling into irrelevance. It’s our task to show people that it matters. To take a stand and share God’s love with a world that desperately needs it.

We believe God’s love for the world is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty.  We cannot just be observers.  So we care enough about people’s lives to risk interpreting God’s love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex.

This is the stand we take:

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.

We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.

This is the stand we take.

Brothers and sisters, those who call themselves followers of Christ, this is where we make our stand. For you, as Jesus’ disciples, have been conscripted in the Lord’s army and are called to fight for and defend the faith by living out the Good News of God’s love—a love that has come into the world to establish peace and reconciliation for all.


 

[1] From “Jude: Contending, A Study & Discussion Guide” by Aaron Armstrong <http://www.scribd.com/doc/29169080/Jude-Contending-A-Study-Discussion-Guide#scribd> Accessed November 6, 2015.

[2] “Contend,” Dictionary.com, accessed November 6, 2015.

[3] “Polls Find Americans, Especially Millennials, Moving Away From Religion” by Tom Gjelten, NPR.org < http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/11/03/454063182/poll-finds-americans-especially-millennials-moving-away-from-religion> Accessed November 3, 2015.

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