When Christians have no respect for leadership.

by K.W. Leslie, 26 September

Jude 1.14-18.

I previously explained when Jude referred to the mythology of his day, it doesn’t mean Jude considered these books historical or authoritative. I bring this up again ’cause Jude quoted a bit from 1 Enoch, a fictional firsthand account of heaven as shown to Noah’s great-grandfather Enoch. (Who went there y’know. Ge 5.24)

Jude 1.14-15 KWL
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them,
saying “Look, the Lord comes with myriads of his saints, 15 making judgment upon all,
examining every life against all their irreverent work, irreverently done;
concerning every harsh thing the irreverent sinners said against him.”

No, 1 Enoch wasn’t actually written by Enoch. It was written in Aramaic, a language which didn’t even exist in whatever century Enoch lived in. It claims to be by him, so we call it pseudepigrapha, which means “fake writings.” But it’s fanfiction. Well-known fanfiction; Paul even took the idea of the “third heaven” from it, 2Co 12.2 ’cause that’s where paradise is figured to be. There’s even a copy of it among the Dead Sea scrolls.

The bit Jude quoted comes from this passage—I’m quoting a Greek translation found in the Codex Panopolitanus.

…that he comes with his myriads and his saints, making judgment upon all. He will destroy all the irreverent, and examine all flesh against all their irreverent work, irreverently done; and harsh words which the irreverent said, and everything which the irreverent sinners said together about him. 1 Enoch 1.9 KWL

Obviously Jude wasn’t making an exact quote; he may have been quoting it from memory.

Think of it this way. Say I’m talking about Jesus’s second coming. Say, in order to make a point, I quote Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”:

There’s no time to change your mind;
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

Norman was hardly an infallible prophet. But hey, he rhymes; and as we learned from The Lego Movie, that ain’t nothing. Some people will believe anything put to poetry.

Why do people quote other people? Usually it’s to criticize, but often it’s to prove we’re hardly the only people who believe as we do. Jude was far from the only apostle to teach Jesus is returning and’ll judge the wicked. But when Jude wrote his letter, he didn’t have their writings to quote from. So he quoted what he did have, off the top of his head: 1 Enoch. It’s not bible, but it’s something. Something his audience knew.

Still true, too. Jesus is returning and’ll judge the wicked. And go-it-alone Christians who presume they’re righteous when they reject Jesus’s church, who slam church leaders and presume their rebellion is righteousness, are gonna find themselves on the wrong side of salvation history.

Go-it-alone types.

I run into this type all the time. I remember a fellow schoolteacher who was a member of an independent Fundamentalist church, who refused anyone’s correction on biblical matters because she needed not that any man teach her. 1Jn 2.27 (An ironic quote, considering her church doesn’t believe women can teach.) She recognized no one as her spiritual father, Mt 23.9 because she heard from God personally, and no one could tell her otherwise. It’s a pretty common attitude in a lot of American Christians—whether they go to church (and ignore their pastors) or not.

For a little while I flirted with this attitude. But I knew I was just being rebellious; it had nothing to do elevating my individual relationship with God as more important than church. He made me part of Christ’s body, which means I’m meant to follow him in concert with every other Christian. To arrogantly assume the Holy Spirit only speaks to me: That’s how cults start.

I’m not the Spirit’s only prophet. No one is. True, the Spirit doesn’t need there to be multiple prophets in order to confirm his messages. But he prefers we work together, because he’s relational, and loving one another is one of his fruits. The go-it-alone Christian submits to no one, and no matter how much they claim they love people nonetheless, that ain’t love. Worse, no iron is sharpening their iron, Pr 27.17 so they won’t realize how wrong they’ve gone.

Man are they in for a rotten surprise when Jesus returns.


1 Enoch (or its translator, at least) sure did like that word ἀσεβής/asevís, which I render “irreverent,” and the KJV “ungodly.” I went with “irreverent” because its root word σέβομαι/sévome means “to revere,” to have a form of awe towards holiness, majesty, and honor. Luke used a related word, Σεβαστός/Sevastós, to translate Caesar’s Latin title of Augustus Ac 25.21, 25, 27.1 because that’s what august means: Respected and impressive. Even sacred.

The way people translate this letter tends to make it sound like the real issue with the people Jude critiqued, was the lack of honor they paid angels. And that the core problem, which drove their anti-angel attitude, was ungodliness. Sinful behavior. The sort of behavior which got the earth flooded in Noah’s day.

This interpretation lets a whole lot of us off the hook: “Why, I don’t practice ungodliness. I try to follow God as best I can… unlike the ungodly. They’re so in trouble with Jesus. I’m not.”

But as we all know, plenty of “godly” people have no reverence for any spiritual authority in the world. They’re religious anarchists: They don’t recognize any authority but God, and since they think of him as kinda distant (or certainly treat him that way), they knock down any church leaders they can find. Pastors and bishops are no more authoritative than they. Scholars have no more knowledge than they. Elders have no more wisdom than they. We’re all equal in God’s eyes, right? So that means no structure, no hierarchy; like Judges all can do what’s right in their own eyes, with nothing but scripture and conscience as our guide.

While it’s true that all political authority comes from the people, too many Christians foolishly think this also applies to spiritual authority—and don’t realize God appoints leaders. Did back in bible times; still does. Like Korah, Nu 16.1-3, Ju 1.11 they assume all spiritual authority is usurped, and want to knock down any leader they find. In so doing, they’re stupidly fighting God himself, who appointed these leaders.

Even Christians who do recognize there are such things as spiritual leaders, commit irreverence from time to time. I’m not saying we have to obey every pastor; some of them are obviously misleading people. But if God appointed them, if they haven’t disqualified themselves from leadership through reckless behavior 1Ti 3.1-13 and produce spiritual fruit, we need to have some reverence for them. They’re growing God’s kingdom. Anyone who does that merits respect.

But the irreverent respect no one. They look at leadership as obstacles in their way: Maybe they imagine they have ministries and calling. Or they might accept the idea Christians must submit to one another, Ep 5.21 but when it comes to leaders they’re mighty quick to point out, “And they need to submit too, ’cause that instruction is for all of us.” So… our leaders need to submit to our authority? How handy for us.

But that’s not what submission means. As the authors of the bible used it, submission means to take others into consideration. Good leaders do precisely that. Irreverent Christians do not.

The jealousy of rebel Christians.

When go-it-alone Christians bash churches, bash Christian leaders, bash any Christian structure, you’ll find at the root of it a whole lot of jealousy. They don’t see why people are following those ministries. They can’t understand why God’s blessing those people.

In fact they claim just the opposite: These ministries are getting followers and finances and support because they’re actually no threat to the devil. So in order to deprive the real Christians (like them) of this material support, the devil is funneling money and power to the compromised ministries. It’s not actually God behind it.

There’s definitely something to their argument, considering all the money we see pouring into political causes, pagan religions, inappropriate entertainment, and the like. Okay, some megachurches might really be a means to distract Christians away from building God’s true kingdom. But as always, look for fruit! When megachurches are led by, and producing, Christians who exhibit love, joy, peace, etc., they’re God’s. And if this jealous little go-it-alone ministry has nothing but bile and spite for such ministries, who’s really the unwitting tool of the devil?

Once again in his letter, Jude slid back into describing such people.

Jude 1.16-18 KWL
16 These complainers are blaming others for the desires they chase on their own.
Their huge mouths speak, astonished by the grace we gain.
17 Beloved, remember the word foretold by the apostles of our master, Christ Jesus!
18 They told you in the End Time, there’ll be those who mock,
who irreverently go after their own desires.

Christians have the really bad habit of assuming whenever the apostles wrote about people who seek their own ἐπιθυμίας/epithymías, “desires,” they mean sexual desires. They mean lust. The KJV translates it “lusts,” after all. But in the 1600s, “lust” didn’t only refer to sexual desire; it meant any kind of desire, and that’s what the scriptures’ authors meant too. Again, Christians use the misinterpretation as a loophole: They don’t let their sexual urges get the better of them, so the apostle must not mean them. But they are letting all their other urges twist ’em this way and that. Their lusts for wealth, profit, influence, glory… for followers.

It’s a tad ironic that independent Christians lust for dependents. They want people who think like them, or value what they’re doing. They may bash other leaders, but they sure do covet their positions. And titles. And paychecks. And they’re astonished, as Jude pointed out, by the grace God pours out to ministries other than theirs. Why do those churches get all the members? Why do those missions get so much funding? Why do those pastors have so many Twitter followers? Why do those websites get all the traffic? Why, we’re just as good, if not better. Must be the devil blocking us.

Y’know, this sort of godless jealousy plagues far more Christians than the rebellious ones. I admit it bugs me when people would rather read some shallow, ignorant person’s blog instead of mine. But at the same time: If they point people to Jesus, we’re on the same team, and I have no business being jealous. We’re not working for our own gain, but the kingdom’s. Something the go-it-alone sorts are never really gonna understand.