The night before Jesus Christ was betrayed and murdered, he shared a last meal with his disciples. Jesus was aware of what was about to happen to Him, and even knew the one who would betray Him to the authorities. He revealed “One of you will betray me.” To a man everyone of them asked “Is it I?” When I think about this story, I am convinced that all of us struggle with this idea that at any given moment or in any given circumstances we are capable of surrounding to our darkest instincts.
In the words of poet Charlie Peacock; “A disease of self runs through my bones. A cancer fatal to my soul. Every attempt on my behalf has failed to bring this sickness under control.” If men who lived, walked, and talked with the living Christ, could struggle with their commitment to Him, how much more will I struggle being two thousand years removed from Him. Don’t misunderstand, I know that I have the Holy Spirit and I don’t doubt my eternal security or salvation. What I doubt is my ability, my holiness, my commitment. And while I’m thankful that His love for me isn’t dependent upon my performance, at times, I can be a far more harsher judge of myself. More so than the most fundamentalistic image of God. It’s not the love of God I struggle with, but the love for myself as reflected in how I imagine others choose to love or reject me.
I can’t escape the thought that others love me because of my behavior and not in spite of it. Is unconditional love even possible in this world? Or are the expectations of others and the crushing power of culture just too much to think that anyone can navigate it unscathed? We hurt people because we hurt. And most of the hurt we perpetuate is unintentional, but some of it is intentional. And when intentional hurt is wielded by humans it is done so with decimating furor.
I have a problem. I care what you think of me. Not to the extent that I am paralyzed in the world, but to the extent that I am often slow to move. I am hesitant to take decisive action that will sever existing problems because the comfort of managing a tension is thought better than the imagined evils that would befall me if I actually solved a problem.
I feel like Judas in that upper room. Struggling with the inner turmoil. “Should I act or not?” Perhaps Judas was convinced that Jesus was the messiah? And that somehow by selling Jesus out to the religious authorities that wanted to kill Him, he would force the hand of The Christ. Putting Jesus into a position where He had to take decisive, miraculous action to save Himself and usher in the Kingdom. Or maybe Judas was just a greedy thief and “devil from the beginning?” Or maybe, if he is like me, his motivations were complicated and duplicitous? Whatever the motivation of Judas, he made his move that night when Jesus looked at him and said, “Whatever you are doing, do quickly.”
I like to imagine that I would never betray Jesus. That I am far more committed and pious than Judas Iscariot. Maybe? But have I ever really been in a position to betray Jesus with real consequences? no.
My faith, to a large degree, is central to my identity. It is central to how you know me and interact with me. I just need you to know I’m not beyond betraying my faith in moments of weakness. But I find solace in the fact that moments before Judas did the unthinkable that Jesus did the unimaginable. Jesus washed the feet of Judas. A First Century act of necessary hygiene but a timeless act of humility. I’m thankful that Jesus did that, because I know that these feet of clay are always in need of the cleansing wash of His love.