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One of these guys created the world and one of them died to save everyone in it. All in a day's work. Ish.
God may be the creator of the universe, but he's also a straight-up character in these letters. He's not just some old guy in a white robe hanging out in the clouds; he's getting his hands dirty by being involved with human life on Earth. Here's what we learn about him:
Talk about a contradiction: God is both a creator of the world and its destroyer. He digs the lowly, but he's almighty. He's judgmental and sympathetic. He wants to be friends, but he will strike you down if you cross him. Not the most stable deity around.
We won't judge, though (that's God's job). Since God made everything, maybe he has to be a little bit of everything. From his point of view, things are simple. God made you, so do what he says…and if you don't listen, he'll destroy you.
Now how about Jesus? For a bunch of letters that are supposed to have been written by people who personally knew Jesus (and even grew up with him), these books are really lacking in biographical details. The only episode that comes up is a quick reference to the Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:17), the time Jesus went up on a mountain and got all sparkly. And it's the super abridged version.
Okay, now that you're all caught up on Jesus' backstory, you're good. See, the folks reading this letter would have been really familiar with all the stuff Jesus did and taught, so James, Peter, and Jude don't need to go into all that. Instead, they're more concerned about what Jesus' life, death, and teachings meant for the world.
So what do these books tell us Jesus?
That's a mouthful.
Translation: according to these authors, Jesus did some pretty amazing stuff while he was hanging out on Earth. Everything he said and did revealed God's wisdom in the most perfect, awesome way possible. And since one visit to Earth is never enough, Jesus is gonna come back; this time, he's bringing troops from Heaven and things are gonna get hot up in here.
But aside from all his divine-like actions, Jesus was also a human. He lived and died. He also got crucified, which was a total bummer. But that also means he can really relate to us as humans. Sure, now he's hanging in Heaven. But, not so long ago, he was hung on a cross. That's why these letters say over and over again that any Christians who are getting picked on should know that Jesus has their back.
How do these two figure relate to each other in the story? Well, God is pretty active. He's still doing stuff: answering prayers, watching out for sinners, blessing faithful folks, getting ready for the end of the world as we know it.
Jesus, on the other hand, is kind of laying back a bit. His work is done. Though he's gonna come back to Earth very, very soon, he just seems to be biding his time playing Candy Crush up in Heaven. (You should see his high score.)
And when the world ends? Watch out. God will be doing some seriously heavy lifting. This place will go up in flames, and he'll be responsible for judging every single soul on Earth. The epistles aren't totally clear on what Jesus will be doing on Judgment Day. Sure, he'll "be revealed" (1 Peter 1:5), but will he be assisting God in the judging? Or possibly kicking butt and taking names? We're not sure.
So are these guys co-equals? Two parts of one super divine trinity? Not quite. While our authors can speak of God and Jesus in one breath, they also seem to have kind of distinct roles and personalities. For James, Peter, and Jude, Jesus is amazing and special. He's the messiah. He's Lord. But is he God incarnate? Our authors haven't quite gone that far yet.