Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Scripture: John 13: 21-32
Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me."
Few things sting like a betrayal. Betrayal drives the events of Holy Week and is also at the heart of many literary tragedies, including William Shakespeare's "Othello." Othello's evil frenemy Iago tricks Othello into believing that his wife Desdemona is cheating on him, and he kills her in a jealous rage. Though most of us have not experienced life and death betrayals such as Iago's betrayal of Othello or Judas's betrayal of Jesus, at one time or another someone we trusted has proved unworthy of our trust, and that creates a pain like no other.
Did Judas's betrayal hurt Jesus's feelings, or was he so spiritually mature that he forgave Judas even before Judas carried out the betrayal? The Bible doesn't go into Jesus's feelings in this instance, but we know that Jesus does experience the full range of human emotions, as he is moved to tears at the death of his friend Lazurus. We do know that on the cross Jesus forgives those responsible for his execution, saying, "They know not what they do." Presumably this forgiveness extends to Judas as well.
Are you harboring a grudge against someone who has betrayed you? What would it cost to forgive that person? Often people hang onto a grudge after a betrayal because it prevents them from drawing close to the person again and experiencing yet another betrayal. And yet it is possible to let go of a grudge without opening yourself up to a situation in which you will be betrayed again.
Even if you are not ready to forgive and move on, you can take steps to move towards forgiveness. You can pray to God to give you the strength to forgive eventually.
When I talk about forgiveness of betrayal, the most honest response I get is, "But they don't deserve it." Of course someone who betrays doesn't deserve to be forgiven. Nobody believes that Judas deserves to be forgiven, and yet Jesus forgives him. Forgiveness isn't about giving someone what they deserve. Forgiveness is about bringing grace and healing into a situation that is poisoned with hurt feelings.

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