Walking with Jesus and Judas: Dealing with Betrayal

“The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies, it comes from friends and loved ones.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

When Jesus said, “He who shared my bread has turned against me” (Jn 13:18), he was echoing Psalm 41:9, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” Jesus, of course, was referring to Judas—Judas who had walked and ministered with him daily for several years, Judas who had sat by him and eaten many meals with him, Judas who was a close and, supposedly, trusted friend. No doubt about it, Jesus was deeply hurt by being kissed off by someone so close to him.

We’ll never know exactly why Judas betrayed Jesus. The best we can do is to surmise his motives. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him, and yet he didn’t treat him any differently than the other disciples. This alone makes Jesus’ extraordinary kindness toward Judas more profound. Jesus loved Judas. He didn’t ostracize him, put him down, or badmouth him to everyone and anyone who would listen. Neither do we find any, “Hah! I’ll show you. You betray me now, but I’m going to make you burn in hell for eternity!” No one-upmanship.

No. There was no hurt pride, stubbornness, or mean-spiritedness in Jesus’ actions—just humility and unconditional love.

What about you? Do you find yourself walking with a “Judas”? What now?

Hard though it may be to do, Jesus tells us clearly:

“Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat [hurt] you.”
–Luke 6:28

I don’t think these are just nice words to help us earn points on our way to heaven. They’re healing words for our sanity, our health, and our good. They keep us from replaying those piercing or cutting words and actions over and over again in our mind—until we feel like we’re going to go crazy or we just break down.

Love has an unbelievable restorative power—giving it and receiving it. It is one of the greatest gifts God has given to us and it’s free! Yet we default to anger and resentment. They’re like an addiction. But, as Jesus would have us do, when we keep on being loving and giving (not like some stalker or obsessed person from the films Sleeping with the Enemy or Fatal Attraction!), we’ll find that we become more lighthearted and fitted for the purpose for which we’ve been created.

And let’s face it. No matter how wonderful we think we are, we’re just not that good. We all fall short. There is a bit of Judas in us all. So yes, we might have been betrayed. But let’s get over it and take the high ground. If we call ourselves Christians, then what we believe should be reflected in the way we treat others and how joy-filled we are. Wouldn’t it be better not to wallow overlong in our misery and then miss out on all the fun and brilliant things around us?

True story: For several years someone I know has refused to respond in kindness no matter what I say or do. In fact, she goes out of her way to be rude, finds ways to hurt, humiliate, or mock me. I’ve tried to find out what I did wrong, have apologized, tried the Matthew 5:23-24 approach—nothing works. Do you know someone like that? After a while, the gymnastics of trying to make things right just gets plain silly and boring, doesn’t it?

Anyway, rather than beat your head against a brick wall, it’s best to hand the whole matter to God and let him deal with the situation. If you do, you’ll discover the same thing about Psalm 37:35-36 that has proved true for me too:

I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.

No, this relative isn’t that wicked, nor has she passed away. What I’m referring to is my shock, hurt, anger, irritation, frustration, anxiety—they’re not there anymore! This person whom I spoke to daily, dreaded hearing her or seeing her phone number light up on my mobile, just doesn’t exist in my life—what she says or does no longer has the power to injure me. I’ve even tried to conjure up those prior negative feelings, but they’re gone. Finis. I can be wondrously happy and daily thank God for his grace in clearing my heart of all that garbage.

So what about you? What’s it like for you? How do you face betrayal? Maybe God might have hardened someone’s heart to fulfill his best purposes for your life. Or, unlike the real Judas, God may choose to change the heart of your Judas and make him/her into your best friend. With God, all things are possible.

Let me know if/when that happens! In the meantime, how do you handle things that hurt you?

I think The Beatles said it best:

Life is very short and there’s no time for for fussing and fighting, my friend!

Photo by worldoflard via Flickr<h/7>