When you learn to sit at table with your Judas, you’ll understand the love of Christ. From a meme I saw on Facebook.
Forgiveness can be the most difficult demand that Jesus makes of us.
Sitting at table with your Judas, with someone close and intimate who has betrayed you, is difficult, I’m sure, although I don’t know much about it. I haven’t been through the betrayals that happen during a divorce, haven’t experienced the back-stabbing that some relatives do to one another.
I’ve spent 18 years in elected office, so I certainly have been lied about, attacked and betrayed. Most of the time this came from people who were what I think of as “outside,” meaning people who weren’t in that very small inner circle of family and a few friends that I let close and who I allow access to the running sores of my vulnerabilities. In all my years of public life, I was only betrayed by one friend who got close, who I had over for Christmas dinner and let around my kids.
That betrayal was a political betrayal, and it hurt my kids. They couldn’t understand it and experienced their first taste of betrayal because of it. That taught me a lesson I never forgot about letting people in politics around your babies.
But other than that, my betrayers have been at a distance from my heart. No one in my family has ever so much as made a public statement about me. No man I was close to back in my dating years has come forward to humiliate me. No one I’ve confided in has ever published or parlayed the things I told them to hurt me.
I have almost no experience with intimate betrayers. But I have witnessed the carnage such people leave behind.
Divorce has become a commonplace betrayal in our world. It pits people who were one flesh against one another in a public, bitter contest. No one knows you as intimately as your spouse does. In the rush of innocent trust that taking a life mate creates, people share their souls. They confide, trust and build a closeness that is designed by God to sustain both of them through the challenges of surviving what life throws at them.
When that spins off into public combat, when the trust and safety turn to bitterness, acrimony and fear, that is a betrayal that gashes through the sinews that bind a person’s life together. A mother who betrays her child is the only betrayal I can think of that would cut deeper than the betrayal of a spouse.
I think much of the rage, stupidity and dysfunction we see in our society today is due to suffering that won’t stop caused by intimate betrayal. I, personally, cannot imagine what it would be like for my mother to betray me. I cannot imagine a world in which my father didn’t love me.
But a large percentage of the people in this country grew up without a father in the house. They had distracted, fractured mothers who were themselves damaged by parents who had often also lived chaotic lives of serial marriages and self absorption.
Many of the people in our society today have never known and can not imagine the unconditional love of parents who were themselves raised by parents who loved them. They don’t know anything about a mother who always comes to their aid or the sense of security of a father who is present and on the job.
These people are wounded emotional halflings from the dawn of their lives onward. Nothing the rest of society can do can fill the holes and undo the damage that has been laid down in them from before they uttered their first words.
It’s a short step for people like this to grow into young adults who make hideous mistakes in their choice of spouse, partner and friends. They can’t evaluate a man or woman accurately because they haven’t acquired the yardstick of common decency and steadiness that comes naturally to people who grow up in a loving family.
They are prey for any Svengali. Whether its a political demagogue, drug dealer, pimp, or lousy choice for a spouse, they are easy pickings. The more aggressive among them become predators as well as prey, committing acts of violence and mayhem as a way of acting out their humiliated rage at not being loved and valued themselves.
True marriage is an ephemera to people like this. They give themselves away to people who are incapable of forming a life-long bond, and they are equally incapable of forming such a bond themselves. It’s a short step from there to divorce and the betrayals that entails.
Or, as has happened to many of the people in our society, they are so damaged that they cannot even pretend to forming a lifelong bond. They “hook up” and then split up, and never really experience genuine intimacy and love at all. Their lives are bereft of the kind of absolute trust and mutual dependence that makes a marriage.
People who can’t form attachments, who can’t trust, who can’t give of themselves, who can’t determine who is and who is not a worthy life partner, may be doing a service to life by not having children. I don’t think a child could flourish with such a parent, and I don’t think a person such as the one I’ve described could love anyone — even their own child — in the all-giving way that parenthood requires.
So, how do people who were cut off at birth by the ultimate life betrayal of parents who didn’t love them enough — by parents who weren’t there, who were so damaged by their own upbringing that they had never matured beyond the narcissism and tantrums of a toddler — how do people who were sired and tossed onto life by parents like this sit down at table with their Judas?
How do they even know who their Judas is?
How do people who are so fundamentally deprived of the tools that allow people to form healthy relationships manage to distinguish between their Savior and their Judas when they are faced with them?
Jesus sat at table with His Judas, but I’ve always thought that it cost Him enormous grief to do so. His plaintive words “Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” when Judas betrayed Him have always seemed to me to be a cry of sorrow for what Judas did to himself.
Jesus loved Judas. And Judas killed his own soul right in front of Jesus.
But how do we sit at table with our Judases? We don’t sorrow for their loss of self by way of the evil they do to us. We react with rage and shame for our own hurt.
Betrayal at any stage of life requires the deliberate violation of the intimacy of trust. Those of us who have learned to love with our mother’s milk can form true intimacy and along with it the expectation of safety in that trust. When it is violated, we react with rage and humiliation to the searing damage that is done to us.
But people who never learned to trust, who have no understanding of intimacy, who cannot fathom what it means to be loved, live their whole lives in a similar humiliated rage without knowing they do it. It is, for them, the normal state of being.
These are the core problems that our society faces today. The numbers of damaged, emotionally stunted people in America has reached a critical mass. We have huge numbers of soldiers carrying the wounds of combat, huge numbers of victims of violence and cruelty carrying the humiliated rage of senseless victimhood, huge numbers of people who have never been loved in all their lives and do not understand the meaning of the emotion. The sheer numbers of damaged people has reached so high that the vast rumbling cauldron of their emotional instability and anger are destabilizing our whole society.
Most of us would be challenged to sit at table with our Judas. But far too many Americans have lived lives of such fundamental betrayal that they do not know who their Judas is.
Jesus Christ is the only answer to problems this deep.
The challenge for people of faith is how do we manage to communicate the love of Christ to people for whom betrayal is their normal? How do we speak of love to people who have never been truly loved by anybody?
How do we become door openers to the peace that passes all understanding for people who live lives of chaos and insanity fueled by the humiliated rage of an existence defined by intimate betrayal and indifference masquerading as love?