I am Judas

I am Judas

I have to confess, I’ve always felt sorry for Judas.

Early in my relationship with Jesus, I recall watching a movie that depicted monologues of each of Jesus’ disciples, of what they were thinking and feeling the night of his arrest.  The monologues were fiction, of course, based on what the Disciples might have said.  Whether, or not, they were accurate, I don’t know.  But, they made an impression on me.

At the end of the film, a pastor asked us which of the Disciple’s  we most identified with.

I said Judas.

I once took part in a reenactment of the Last Supper.  I played Judas.

The FSU Wesley Foundation, where I was the pastor for eleven years, has a long-held Maundy Thursday tradition, observing the Last Supper in total silence, each person taking turns sitting at the table to receive communion.  Every year, for eleven years, I waited for Judas’ spot to open.  (I’ve never told anyone that I did that – before now)

On the Wednesday, before Jesus’ crucifixion,  Judas agreed to betray Jesus.  Though we don’t know why, Judas made a deal with the Sanhedrin to help them find and arrest Jesus, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver.

Why did he do it?  Luke says that Satan entered him.  How does that happen?  He apparently loved money.  So do I.  Maybe he acted impulsively.  I do.  Some scholars suggest that Judas had become impatient, and was simply pushing Jesus into a situation where he would have to act.  I get impatient with Jesus too.

I know what Judas did was terrible.  Never having met him, I certainly can’t defend Judas’ decision.  I don’t know why he did what he did.

I guess I have a hard time believing that Judas could have spent three years in Jesus’ inner circle and not have been deeply and profoundly impacted by him.  Though he may have betrayed Jesus, at a critical moment, does that mean that he was evil to the core?  Does that mean he didn’t love Jesus?  Does that mean he didn’t regret it?

“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”  Matthew 27:3-4

Is that not repentance?

Judas betrayed Jesus.  That is undeniably true.

So have I.  I betray Jesus everyday.

When I don’t give food to the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned, welcome the stranger, etc., I betray him.

When I don’t speak out against injustice, I betray him.

When I don’t love my neighbor, or my enemy, I betray him.

When I bow down to idols, I betray him.

When I am disobedient, I betray him.

When I think evil thoughts, I betray him.

When I become impatient, demanding, self-pitying, and childish, I betray him.

When I ignore or defy the Spirit’s promptings, I betray him.

When I am more of a reflection of the World, than I am of him, I betray him.

No, I have not received thirty pieces of silver for betraying him – I’ve received much more!  No, I didn’t actively participate in a scheme leading to his arrest and crucifixion.  But, Jesus was crucified because of me – for me – every bit as much as Judas.

I’m not suggesting that Judas was any better than Scripture portrays him.  I’m just reminded that I’m not so great either.  I am, truly, in every way, a sinner saved by grace.

Judas betrayed Jesus.  So do I.

Lord, have mercy.

The Sin of Being Passive

The Sin of Being Passive

I can easily be accused of being passive.  I don’t move quickly.  I take my time making decisions.  I tend to be quiet – taking in more than I express.  I don’t get very excited very often.  I prefer peace and calm.  I don’t show much variation of facial expression.  I can watch grass grow or paint dry, and be perfectly content.

But, I wouldn’t say that I am mentally passive.  In fact, my mind is so active that I have trouble shutting my thoughts down.  But, externally, I realize that’s a different story.

During Lent, I’ve been reflecting on that line from a familiar prayer of confession, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done…”  We not only need to confess our sins of commission, but also our sins of omission – in other words, our sins of passivity.  While I may not be guilty of this or that particular action (though I likely am), I am very likely guilty of inaction.

It recently occurred to me that Adam was standing next to Eve – passively – while the snake tempted the two of them to eat the forbidden fruit.  Then Adam blamed God for making Eve.

When the angels told Lot’s family to leave Sodom, they dragged their feet.

When Dinah was raped (Genesis 34), her father, Jacob, did nothing.


Isaiah 1:17 says, Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

That’s action.  That’s what it means to God’s people.

But, by verse 23, Isaiah says that, our rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”  Their actions were evil – bribery, corruption, theft.  But, equally evil was their inaction – including the distinctive call to God’s people to love justice and do kindness – “they do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Oppression is not only the result of sinful action.  Oppression is also the result of passive inaction – MY passive inaction.  YOUR passive inaction?

Though I read and speak and write about justice, acting on behalf of the oppressed and the marginalized is another matter.  I cannot – we cannot – passively watch the injustice in our communities and broader world, and do nothing.  We are called to be people of action – to be a hand of mercy and a voice of prophecy.  We are called to act.  To do less, is nothing less than sin.

I confess that sometimes my passivity is selfish – I just don’t want to do anything.

I confess that sometimes my passivity is selective blindness – if I don’t see it, it must not be happening (ostrich syndrome).

I confess that sometimes my passivity is rooted in busyness – I am so busy doing church work that I don’t have time to do Kingdom work (there is a difference).

I confess that sometimes my passivity is a result of cowardice – will I be criticized for this, and am I willing to pay the price?

I confess that sometimes I am passive because I don’t know what to do – ignorance becoming a convenient crutch.

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther king wrote the following words from a Birmingham jail cell, largely to white passive pastors, who were discouraging his actions, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

“The time is always ripe to do what is right.”

This week, chemical weapons were deployed in Syria, Isis killed over 50 people in Syria and Iraq, and – as is true every other week – multitudes of people are suffering and dying in countless ways, while I passively do nothing.

Forgive me, Lord, for what I have left undone, and those things which I ought to have done. 

What will we do?  What will I do?