Be merciful to those who doubt

Be merciful to those who doubt,

snatch others from the fire and

save them; to others show mercy,

mixed with fear-hating even the

clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Jude 22-23

In the first nineteen verses of his short book, Jude describes a horrible scenario in which godless men are described as clouds without rain, grumblers, faultfinders, following their own ungodly desires, taking the way of Cain, rushing for profit into Balaam’s error, and following mere natural instincts, to share only a few of his comments concerning them.  After such a description, one might expect Jude to pass judgment upon them and leave them to their own destiny.  Or, to such men as these, their coming to Christ would seem a daunting task, enough to discourage even the most ardent apostle.  Yet, Jude concludes his chapter with the phrases “Be merciful,” “Snatch others from the fire,” and “Show mercy.”  What is it about mercy that enables it to restore hope for those in such a lost condition?   In James 2:13 we see that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”  If we rightly understand the mercy extended to us by God, we will be merciful to others instead of judging them.  We also see that the ministry that we have been given is through God’s mercy.  II Corinthians 4:1 states “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”  It is through His mercy that He enables us to persevere for others and not lose heart.  It is through His mercy that He removes their barriers and doubts to faith.  It is through His mercy that He establishes them in His Kingdom and provides ministry opportunities for them as well.

“Be merciful to those that doubt.”  Tom (not his real name) came to my office seeking help for a medical problem.  His illness was not severe, but one that would require periodic evaluations and monitoring of treatment.  As the weeks went by, I discovered that he was a successful businessman in the auto industry and we developed a friendship.  On one occasion we explored the basic truths of Christianity, but he was not interested.  This topic would come up on most visits and we would discuss it further.  He continued to have doubts about the truth of the gospel and was hesitant to go further in our discussion.  Some months later, I was called to the hospital where he had been admitted with a stroke.  He was unable to move his right side and was unable to speak.  As improvement slowly occurred over the next several days, I sensed that whenever I entered the room he would try to speak.  Gradually as the days progressed he was able to articulate that the moment the stroke happened, he realized the truth of what we had discussed in the months preceding the stroke, and during that brief amount of time, unexpressed to anyone other than the Lord, he had committed his life to Christ.  In His mercy, God had broken through his doubts and drawn him to Himself.

“Snatch others from the fire and save them.”  Much of my medical practice over the years has been with those who are critically ill.  Many are approaching death at the same time that I am being consulted for their care.  One such patient was a lady in her late 60’s who had been in the hospital in Intensive Care for several days.  She had been in a coma during this time and was not expected to live much longer.  Some distressing respiratory complications had developed which were disturbing to the staff and the patient’s family, so I was consulted for her care.  Although she had been in a coma since admission, to my surprise she was alert and responsive the morning I saw her in consultation.  Although I was able to provide relief for her respiratory symptoms, her basic illness was one from which she would not recover.  As I marveled at how miraculous it was that she was alert, it occurred to me that the only plausible reason for this was that she could have one last chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Thankfully, she was responsive to the Gospel and placed her trust in Christ that day.  On my hospital rounds the next day, the staff informed me that she had slipped back into a coma late in the evening and had passed away during the night.  In His mercy, the Lord had provided opportunity for her to be snatched from the fire.

“To others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”  Jim (not his real name) had grown up in a family characterized by a great deal of legalism.  He rebelled against his parents, the church, and society in general.  He became an alcoholic and while driving under the influence of alcohol, committed vehicular manslaughter.  After spending eight years in prison, he returned to the streets, living in alleys and dumpsters.  When we met, he was free from alcohol, attending AA meetings, but smoking incessantly, and remaining bitter at the church.  He was openly antagonistic to even the mention of the name of Jesus.  I was frankly concerned and fearful about demonic possession at our first encounter.  We met weekly for many months, sitting in the smoking section of a large restaurant for breakfast.  He did not believe that the scriptures were God’s word, nor did he think they had any relevance to his life.  We read them together anyway!  Gradually his demeanor softened and the veil of doubt, hate and rebellion was lifted from his heart.  He became an ardent follower of Jesus Christ although somewhat crusty around the edges.  He began to openly confess Christ and share his testimony at AA meetings.  When he was told by others that “You can’t do that here,” his reply was “The Hell I can’t!”  God’s mercy had reached this man, even though he had spent many years under the control of corrupted flesh.

We live in a world where were it not for the mercy of God we would all be eternally lost and condemned.  It is through His mercy that we are reconciled to Him and through Him have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  All around us are those who doubt, those who need to be snatched from the fire, and those whose lives have been hardened by corrupted flesh.  This ministry of reconciliation requires patience, perseverance and prayer, yet through God’s mercy we know that we “do not lose heart.”


In Christ,

Richard Spann

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