Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

--Jude 24–25 (NRSV)

"The road to hell," someone said, shortening the familiar aphorism, "is paved." It's been made smooth and seductively easy to travel, that is, unlike the road that leads to a more desirable end. That other, narrower road is not paved but is full of rough spots and threats and hazards. The letter of Jude paints a picture of an environment beset with hazards. Before the wonderful ascription of praise that closes his letter, Jude presents a horrendous picture of heresy and moral failure--the two go together--threatening those he writes. In images piled on top of one another, he warns of those who are blemishes on your love-feasts, while they feast with you without fear, feeding themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved forever. Not a reassuring portrait. Don't be deceived, says Jude, it's not safe out there! The road to hell is paved, but not the road the church must travel before the Lord returns, not the road you must travel in this world. Be a little wary if the road seems too smooth! Cheery words, indeed. Yet that context of danger gives urgency to Jude's reference to the One who is able to keep us from stumbling (that's the sense of the word translated falling). Face it: apart from an urgent situation, we do not tend to turn first to ...

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