Certainly, God has called Christians to be loving and compassionate people in our ministries to needy people. Through Jude, however, He instructs us that we must also be people characterized by a proper hatred when we minister the gospel to people who have been defiled by indulging the flesh.
We Must Hate “the Garment Spotted by the Flesh”
Jude teaches believers vital truth about how they are to minister to certain needy people: “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23). This text clearly directs believers that they must have a proper hatred of something even while they are engaged in gospel ministry to save such people.
Green provides helpful explanations of this directive:
That is to say, they are to have pity upon even the most abandoned heretic, but to exercise great care while getting alongside him lest they themselves become defiled. They are to retain hatred of sin even as they love the sinner. (Gene L. Green, TNTC, 2 Peter and Jude, 204)
Jude previously spoke about the “flesh” in relationship to the sin of the angels, which was considered to be sexual acts, and of the heretics who had “defiled the flesh” (v. 7-8).
Jude likely has this particular fleshly desire in mind here. Sexual immorality was one of the hallmarks of the heretics’ praxis (vv. 4-8, 11-12, 16, 18), and here Jude envisions the sexual act as staining the tunic. The “stained tunic” is literal, but it becomes a metaphor for the sinful life of those who have fallen into the sins of the heretics. Jude warns those engaged in this rescue operation not to be taken in but to “hate” the stained tunic, which represents the sin itself (Gal. 6:1). Coming close to the situation of the fallen could ensnare those who did not undertake the operation “in fear.” The ones who show mercy should detest the very acts that have ensnared some of the members of the church (John 3:20; Heb. 1:9; Rev. 2:6). (Gene L. Green, ECNT, Jude & 2 Peter, 128)
Their godly reverence will prompt an attitude of “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” The reverent soul can never regard false doctrine or moral pollution as a matter of indifference or of little consequence. “Hating” (misountes) does not prescribe a malicious or antagonistic attitude but rather a proper feeling of aversion and loathing.” (D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude, 291; bold text is in italics in the original)
Moo understands the directive in the same way:
The false teachers and their disciples are following their own “natural instincts” and paying no attention to the Spirit (v. 19). They are producing teaching and behavior that is offensive to God. And, Jude is saying here, it should be equally offensive to believers. They should naturally “hate” such conduct. Even, then, as they act in mercy toward those who have fallen, praying that the Lord may bring them back, they must not overlook in any way the terrible and destructive behavior these people have engaged in. (Douglas J. Moo, NIVAC, 2 Peter, Jude, 289)
As these remarks by various commentators show, believers must hate the sinful acts of fleshy indulgence that people have engaged in.
When we as believers engage in gospel ministry to people who have been defiled by having indulged their flesh, we must have within us a proper hatred of their sinful behavior. We must not be fooled into thinking that showing mercy to people means not at the same time having internal revulsion and loathing for the sins that they have committed. We do not have a proper gospel mindset if we lack such hatred within us for sin when we minister evangelistically.
Loving one’s neighbor does not mean that all we have in our hearts is a love that totally looks beyond the detestable defilement that their fleshly indulgence has wrought upon them. Rather, Jude 23 directs us that when we engage in evangelistic ministry to these needy people, we must have within us both love for people and hatred for their fleshly sins.
Do You Have the Proper “Ick” Response When Ministering Evangelistically to Such Needy People?
A proper gospel mindset when ministering to people who have defiled themselves through indulging their flesh includes having within us an “ick” response to the sins that they have committed that have defiled them. In light of Jude 23, do you have the proper “gospel” hatred of sins that you should have when ministering to people who have been defiled by having indulged their flesh?