The Good Slave

Slaves: image from

It is a shame that most Christians all but ignore the little book of Jude. Like Philemon, it takes up barely a page or two in our Bible, but I believe good things come in small packages. Let’s spend some time together getting to know this book.

Jesus had four brothers: James, Simon, Joses, and Jude (Mark 6:3). While they followed Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, it wasn’t long before they abandoned him. After all, for whom would it have been more difficult to believe Jesus was the son of God than for his own family. They knew he was a good man, but it was too difficult for them to believe Jesus was the son of God until after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). I do hope there are re-runs in heaven! What a fantastic reunion that must have been!

Not only are James and Jude brothers of Jesus, but their writing styles are also very similar. They choose vivid illustrations and share very practical admonitions. James describes himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1), while Jude introduces himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (Jude 1). Why don’t they say, “I am the brother of Jesus”? After their unbelief, while Jesus was alive and ministering, they probably didn’t feel worthy. James not only describes himself as a servant (literally a “slave”) of God but notice how he describes his relationship with Jesus, who is both “Lord” and “Christ.” (“Christ” means anointed – that is, “chosen by God.” “Messiah,” the Hebrew word, means the very same thing.) Jude, the youngest brother, identifies himself by his relationship with James and as “a servant of Jesus Christ” (Again, literally a slave of Jesus Christ).

How do you identify yourself? I am “John McKeel, the son of John McKeel, the son of John McKeel, the father of John McKeel, the grandfather of John McKeel.” That’s a lot of Johns, but mom, the mother of five children, observed, “You can never have enough Johns in a house.” Or we could identify ourselves by the hats we wear. I’m a preacher, a writer, a sailor, a photographer… but, frankly, the only thing that matters is being a child of God. That’s special, but I wonder if we ever think about ourselves like James and Jude? Are we slaves of Jesus Christ? Is he in total control of our lives? Are we seeking to please him or ourselves in what we do and say? How do we become faithful servants? The Apostle Paul said Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a slave” (Philippians 2:7 NRSV). Therein is the key. Jesus “emptied himself.” James must have done the same when he became a “slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” So did Jude. We can do no less.

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