I sat in the passenger seat of the church van while my husband filled the tank with gas. Behind me sat four of the girls in our youth group. I was excitedly reminding them to sign up for the next Girls’ All Nighter when one of them said, “We aren’t going. We don’t like you.” Just like that, right to my face. I looked into the faces of the other three girls, searching for any sign of remorse, any breaking of rank. I saw nothing but betrayal. I quietly said, “I’m sorry that you feel that way, you’ll miss a good time,” and I turned around in my seat.
The girl who had spoken for the rest of them was a person who had benefited from some of my most selfless acts of love in the past. When her mother kicked her out of the house, we took her in. We bought her bedding and dorm room accessories. We drove her back and forth to school an hour each way until her mother took her back. Now here she was spitting in my face.
One of the other girls was always on the fringe of any group. She was socially awkward and lacked any true friends. She was only accepted into the group of popular girls because she was too naive to notice their slights. Every week I gave her a huge chunk of my time, listening to her and praying for her problems. I hugged her like a daughter and guarded her like a mother. I even helped her with her homework and spent time with her after school every week. Now she sat glaring at me silently, not willing to compromise her moment of popularity with the “in” girls.
Another girl had consumed hours and hours of my time nearly every week. I met with her outside of youth group. She was struggling with some deep-seated demons. In my limited counseling capacity, I was trying to help her. I was also playing both ends to the middle in trying to get her parents to wake up and pay attention to her too. I noticed too late that she was stealthily pulling the rug out from under my feet. I would find out in the next few months that she had spread some horrific rumors about me that still churn my stomach to recall. She was a Judas to the extreme, kissing my cheek and stabbing me in the back at the same time.
The fourth girl and I had never had one single confrontation. I liked her a lot and it seemed she liked me too. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t speak up for me. She just turned her face to the window when I tried to look her in the eye.
I knew for a fact that I wielded a dangerous weapon. My tongue. I could have slashed these girls to pieces and continued to destroy them and their reputation in our group. I had the power to defend myself in the strongest of terms. I chose not to use that power. I chose not to fight back against their rumors and slander. I knew their weaknesses and I chose not to exploit them. Why? Partially because they were still children, big children. And partially because I saw how Jesus dealt with Judas.
The Bible says that from the very beginning, Jesus knew which one would betray him. He knew that Judas was dipping into the group’s money purse and stealing. He knew what was in that man’s heart from day one. BUT HE NEVER LET ON THAT HE KNEW. As they sat together as a group, eating their last supper together before the night of his betrayal, Jesus said, “one of you will betray me.” And every single man around that table asked, “who could it be?” They had no idea, but Jesus already knew. For the entire three years, Jesus treated Judas just like the others. Day after day, he gave him chance after chance to choose another path in his heart. Judas heard the same sermons that John and Peter and the other disciples heard, but he chose a different course of action. Betrayal.
Because Jesus was meek and humble, even giving his betrayer the best bite of the meal, that is the path I chose to follow with these girls. It hurt. Over and over again, it cost me something. Over and over again, I opened my arms to embrace my Judas when what I really wanted to do was to close my arms and shield my bleeding heart. It cost me a lot to love like that. But not as much as it cost my Jesus.
We love because he first loved us. And his love sustained me and strengthened me to do the right thing. These were some of the Bible verses that I depended on when facing my Judas.
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:5-7
“Trust in the Lord and do good… commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:5-6
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ’It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
“Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44