In November 2010, Ingrid Betancourt described her harrowing 6-year-long ordeal as a guerilla war captive in the jungles of Colombia. She had been captured during a trip with government aides to a remote town and now was wasting away in a jungle camp while being viciously abused by her captors. She talked about how she barely kept her will to stay optimistic and self-respecting even under gruesome conditions and great suffering. She never lost her will to escape thankfully and that resolve kept her alive until Colombian forces were able to trick the guerilla warriors and sneak her away by helicopter. In the TV interview afterwards, she described the psychology behind her captors. She said, “I think we all have, you know, human condition, light and shadow. And this shadow is like a little monster that it's locked inside of us and that we keep there. But, when you met -- meet some conditions, that monster can be unleashed. I could see people that, in the first days, where they would come and meet us, they would encourage us to be who we are -- were, and they would try to be nice. But the weeks passing by, they would turn themselves into these horrible persons, abusing, being very cruel, and having a satisfaction in their cruelty, which was sadistic.”
I couldn’t help but connect this description with Jude’s stark take on humanity’s dark side in his epistle. He says, “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….These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”
Jude here talks about how natural human instincts are on display. He draws a distinction between the corrupt instincts that humanity so often falls into and the God’s beautifully loving, merciful character. At first, he makes this point by speaking in more general terms about the moral decline in the surrounding world. But then he brings it much closer to home. Notice, he doesn’t scold his hearers, he just warns them: But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.” And then he pleads with them: “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) We’re all dealing with a sinful nature that’s trying to derail our commitment to God. The devil uses foul means left and right to entice us into defiant sin or subtly draw our attention away from God. But here’s the key to staying faithful—“Keep yourselves in God’s love” and “Wait for the Lord’s mercy.” Jude doesn’t offer a 12-step program to stop sinning and he doesn’t give a pat answer about hanging onto to some vague promises. He just gives these two keys: Keep on strengthening your friendship with God (this is where prayer, Bible study, reflection, claiming promises, and worship come in) and live every day with the expectant anticipation of Christ’s coming. This journey isn’t always easy, in fact, it can become agony some days. But when the sinful nature starts clamoring within, we can learn to take a deep breath, send up a quick prayer, quote the Bible, and keep looking to Jesus.
Warner, Margaret. “Former Captive Ingrid Betancourt on the ‘Light We Have Inside.’” World: PBS Newshour. 4 November 2010. Accessed June 29, 2020. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/ingrid-betancourt