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Thursday, September 21, 2006

St. Jude, D.D.S.

About two weeks ago, I had a denist appointment. Both the hygienist and the dentist made positive remarks. However, near the end of the appointment, someone remembered it had been a while since I had any x-rays. They took the shots, and in a few minutes the dentist was back with some "not so good" news. Apparently, there were some dark spots in some back teeth that suggested something was going to happen eventually. He said I would need to come in again.
Yesterday was that day. I walked into the dentist office, feeling great, with no complaints about my teeth. I sat in the chair and had my jaw shot up with novacaine, felt half my face go numb, took a drill to a couple of teeth (before the novacaine completely set in), tasted latex gloves for an hour, felt poking and proding and prying on my mouth. By the end, I left the office sore, swollen, numb and had a funny taste in my mouth.

(Now my dentist is not only a perfectly capable man, but a godly man too. I have no doubt he would not have performed the procedure unless it was truly necessary. Yet, I could not help but feel like I left the office in worse shape than I entered.)

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.--Jude 3

Our common salvation tells us that Jude was wanting to write to believers, celebrating the grace they had already received. No critique, no challenge, just something encouraging about their common bond. However, after examining the situation, Jude felt it was necessary to beg the people to contend for the faith. Did Jude love the people any less than when he first sat down to write? Did his hyper-critical drive take over, causing him to be negative, rather than simply look for common ground?

Or was it that Jude, loving the people he was writing, saw the situation, and knew of the need to contend for the faith. After assessing the situation, Jude realized the most loving thing he could do was expose the problems. People had crept in who turn grace into licentiousness (4), deny the true Messiah (4), reject all forms of authority (8), and flatter the flock (16) all so they can make more money (11). But if these guys are so bad why would Jude need to write about them? Surely, the people would notice? Yet, Jude states they have crept in unnoticed (4) as hidden reefs (12) who look to gain an advantage (16).

Today, if you contend for the faith, you are called divisive, rude and mean. But could I hurl the same accusation at my dentist? I was happy, comfortable and felt healthy. Wasn't my dentist the problem? After all, I'm in more pain now than I felt yesterday?We know that the real problem was my own tooth decay.

In fact, Jude instructs the church that these (false teachers) are the ones who cause divisions, worldly minded, devoid of the Spirit (19). Jude, motivated by the same love that initially prompted his letter, knows he must do the hard work, prying, poking and drilling to extract the destructive teaching.

I'd be angry at my dentist (my jaw is still sore and there is a funny taste in the left side of my mouth) except that I know he saved me a ton of pain in the future. Likewise, contending can sometimes be a painful process, however it allows us to delight more in our common salvation.

Sure, a sensitive nerve may be exposed when error is revealed. But it is the loving thing to attack the problem, not ignore it.


  • At 8:27 AM, Blogger jason said…

    I can't read the article because the pictures make me cringe!

  • At 9:17 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i guess i could make them orange or something.

  • At 9:51 AM, Blogger BReformed said…

    That's what PUMPKIN ROLL does to your teeth.

    I love the book of Jude. What a fantastic post.

  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    AH MAN! er, dog. or something. Bring back the eye of Sauron! I'm not going to be able to eat for a couple of hours.

  • At 12:21 PM, Blogger RevPharoah said…

    I noticed that your dentist was willing to use novocaine to keep you from feeling the full impact of what he was doing. What grace on his part! (There may be women who insist on "natural" childbirth, but no man will ever insist on "natural" dentistry.) I'm guessing that if he hadn't you would never, ever enter a dentist's office again. Only when the pain of the rotting teeth was greater than the pain of having them fixed would you even think of returning to the dentist's chair.

    Is there a spiritual application? Hmmm.

  • At 6:35 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    good question steve,

    two ways to tackle it...

    if the novocaine analogy means to deaden the senses, absolutely not. Scripture never speaks well of a hardened heart or seared conscience. therefore, we shouldn't do anything to deaden a person's sensitivities. (i hate when a person is feeling conviction and a well meaning christian comes along and tells them it is nothing to worry about.)

    however, if the analogy simply means we compassionately handle the situation, lovingly handling the problem...then sure. i think jude was even doing that. (by the way, as one of my blog readers, you're supposed to be holding me accountable to that.)

  • At 1:51 PM, Blogger Charity said…

    Reading these comments has shown me one thing . . . I need a picture!

  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    Does the dentist use novacaine because he is primarily gracious or because he is primarily pragmatic?

    It is true that his patients would not come to him if he were a painful doctor. But novacaine has a procedural benefit in that it immobilizes the jaw for the work that must be done.

    I think the better analogy is that novacaine forces submission to the corrective action of extracting that which is decayed. Having had a root canal myself in the last year, there is nothing gracious about it. :)

    I know people in my church who were given a lot of novacaine for a lot of years (*prior* to the dear pastor I am working with), but extraction of their decay never took place. That is hardly gracious. It is nothing less than cruel.


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