On betrayal and public persecution

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Welcome to my ‘Layman’s Lectionary’ series where I stumble my way through the liturgical year and share my layman’s testimonies and confessions on modern culture and daily life as it corresponds to scripture.

Wednesday of Holy Week

Click here for today’s Revised Common Lectionary readings.

So much of the Christian faith has to do with facing persecution. Because why do we need faith in anything outside of ourselves when everyone is treating us with love, acceptance, and fist-bumps (do people still fist-bump)?

But when other humans do the human thing of betraying and persecuting us, it can be a very isolating and terrifying experience.

And in this age of social media where so many of us have our every move on public display, we’re more vulnerable than ever to being stabbed in the back and socially crucified in order for certain people to gain a sense of righteousness in the eyes of their ‘tribe’ at our expense.

Public displays of persecution that used to be reserved for high-profile celebrities are now open for all of us through our social networks online.

(I don’t know about you, but I don’t get paid enough to bear it.)

This week, we’re taken to the cross. As much of an aversion I used to have to this part of the Jesus story, I now give kudos to this faith for not skirting the ubiquity of human despair and suffering. There is no spiritual bypassing in Christianity. It takes us into and through the heart of human suffering and darkness through the central character of Jesus.

Here are a few lines from today’s readings (yes, there’s a lectionary reading every day this Holy Week — hence why you’re seeing so much of me) that I started to see a thread in…

First, from Isaiah:

It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Then, from the Psalm:

Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!

Finally, from the gospel reading of John:

When he (Judas) had gone out (to betray him), Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

This thread is a thread of the despair that comes from betrayal. It’s enough to eat any human soul alive when we’re betrayed. But the glimmer in this thread comes from looking to a freeing and redeeming God in the midst of our betrayal. Something in us turns away from the persecutor and allows the radiance of our divine creator to shine on us.

See, when we’re betrayed, the first place we typically look is within. Sure, we’re mad at them for betraying us, but in the quiet of our own psyche, we can wonder if we’re deserving of this betrayal. Maybe we did something (or didn’t do something) that justifies this betrayal.

Secular culture is always based on performance, value, and merit. If this is all you have, it’s just as bad as believing in a God based on punishment and law.

This weighs heavy on the human soul. Because now, we’ve not only projected our despair onto our enemies, but also onto ourselves.

But this isn’t the God that Jesus showed us. On the cross, he opened his arms to a loving, forgiving God and, in turn, loved and forgave those who persecuted him in his darkest moment of despair.

(Yes, we humans need a spectacle to get something and he certainly gave us one.)

That is grace — the one-directional love and forgiveness from God to us — which this faith is rooted in.

I don’t know how to get through this dark of despair without faith in something… else. Something More-Than. An ever-loving, forgiving, merciful Other who suffers with us. One whom we can lay all burdens on and be renewed in spirit.

It doesn’t matter how ‘smart’ our culture is. It doesn’t matter how many apps I have on my phone to meditate to or get Jimmy John’s at my front door in 5 minutes. When it comes to the despair that comes from human betrayal, darkness sets in really fast. I need God in these moments.

Is this ‘Other’ objective and provable? 

Is it rational?

Is there an app for it?
Not that I’ve seen…

But does it revive the human heart and bring new life?
Oh, hell yes…

Does it make me want to release others from their chains as well?

I need this faith today even more so in this modern world. Sooner or later, we all fall short of each other’s and our own expectations. We all suffer the pangs of betrayal and it’s more public than ever for more people than ever.

In these darkest moments of betrayal, may we all remember that the divine ground of our very being loves us just where we are and only wants us to be free from judgment and shame.

May our hearts be softened so that we may free ourselves and others from the voice of the accuser that so profoundly creeps into the fabric of the human soul.