Jude - Second in a series
Jude's letter was written somewhere between 64 and 80 AD, to Christians of an unknown congregation or area: "to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, called"… (Jude 1)
Of the many translations of the Bible, from the King James to the New International and beyond, some say, To them that are sanctified or called, and some say, To those who are loved by God the Father (Jude 1). There is a Greek word that denotes "purification" and "separation" for sanctified (see 1 Cor 7:14, 1 Tim 4:5, 2 Tim 2:21, Heb 2:11, others) or, for called, "invited" or "appointed," but in Jude 1 "God's welcoming love"* is more in view. Let’s combine the language insights and say, "the welcoming love of God that sanctifies."
So, what is the welcoming love of the Lord that sanctifies? Some examples are seen in the life of Sarah, "who gave us birth" (Isa 51:2), the mother of the faithful.
When her husband, Abraham, was called by God to go to a new land, he went out "not knowing where he was going." (Heb 11:8) Sarah faithfully accompanied him, and her biggest problem turned out to be her beauty.
After arriving in the promised land, it became necessary to travel to Egypt to water their flocks. Knowing Sarah was an object of desire, Abraham entreated her, "I know that thou [art] a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee." (Gen 12:11-13)
She was in fact taken into Pharaoh's house, which was quickly overrun with plagues (Gen 12:17) and Pharaoh understood he had taken a man's wife. Yet he had not touched her, as he said to Abraham, "Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way." (Gen 12:19)
The welcoming love of God that sanctifies is expressed in his protection and help when others forsake us. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. (Ps 27:10)
You may ask, Why didn't God keep Pharaoh from taking Sarah and she could have avoided the situation altogether? But recall, her beauty was very great so that Pharaoh desired her for his harem. Is it better to have no gift? We, too, have gifts coveted by controlling types, but the Lord is with us. Again and again in Scripture, God rescues his own from the attacks and strongholds of their enemies, and as we read the Bible, we begin to believe in our hearts that God will show us welcoming love in our worst straits. If we are His then we are Sarah's daughters, and must not be afraid of any fear (1 Pet 3:6): If God be for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31).
It appears that Sarah was given a maid as a gift for her time in Pharaoh's harem, Hagar the Egyptian (Gen 16:1). In her mid-70s Sarah still had not had children, so she offered Hagar to Abraham as a means of securing an heir. Thus was Ishmael, Abraham's first son, born.
But Sarah remained barren till she was 90 years old and then gave birth to Isaac. In time she demanded that Hagar, whose life she had upset considerably, be cast out with Ishmael, and God agreed with her judgment (Gen 21:10-12). He understood that she needed the conflict between Hagar's son and hers to be resolved. (Gen 21:9)
God’s special love for his called and kept people does not coddle them in human sin and failure. Sarah was required to live with Hagar till Ishmael was old enough to become a man on his own; yet the Lord agreed that Isaac should not grow up taunted by an adversary, even despite her being the root cause of the problem. Welcoming love does not imprison its children by guilt, shame and conflict, but rather sets us free and resolves confusion.
Before Isaac's birth, Abraham again gave Sarah into the arms of a foreign king to save his own life, and this was in the time frame of Sarah's conception! Yet, once again God protected her: And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night… (Gen 20:4) and he sent her back to Abraham.
Sarah remained faithful throughout the years and the insults. She welcomed the welcoming love of God. [Many of these insights are found in the God Remembered Abraham Bible Study on SistersSite.]
In comparison, what do those outside of God's family have that is of any comfort? Why does it take some people so long to enter his gates? Why are hard-hearted souls so slow to embrace the better land where the welcoming love of God sanctifies?
Perhaps they do not feel quite ready to forego the self serving enjoyment of forbidden pleasures, and dreaming that they are in control of their personal agendas, like those whom Jude exposes. But as humans we all serve a higher power, whether the Lord or Satan, and there is no middle ground. We may think we have our own place in the sun, but we do reside in one territory or the other, in the Welcoming Love or the despising of it.
*My sources are the Interlinear Bible on Studylight.org and The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English by Alfred Marshall.