Daddy plays tic-tac-toe with X’s and heart’s with our youngest daughter as we wait for the server to bring lunch after church. What a good father, I think to myself. He provides, protects, plays with, and pampers our three little girls.
With Father’s Day drawing close, I consider my heavenly father and his goodness in light of the badness of the world.
Pain, suffering, injustice, oppression, and betrayal are just a few problems we encounter here. We all have experiences with these hard parts of life. We all have stories we can tell about when we have been both the victim and the abuser in unkind circumstances, unlovely people, and uncalled for events. Life isn’t fair and we know it all too well.
How can that fact be reconciled to the reality of a good father – a father that calls both the offended and the offenders, the pain-inflicting and the pain-stricken, the victims and the oppressors, the betrayed and the betrayers to “strive for peace with everyone.”
Peace with everyone.
I believe one key to the mystery lies in Judas. The name itself is a dead giveaway. No one likes a traitor. How can we be at peace with someone like that? Yet, at one time or another, we have all sold out for the sake of self. Selfish ambition, selfish pleasure, selfish gain – it’s all the same disease. Much suffering, oppression, and injustice in the world is because we and others around us act like Judas instead of acting like Jesus.
Judas was chosen – out of all the trillions of people in the world who have ever lived or will ever live – to be one of Jesus’s twelve disciples. He got to be one of a dozen men who knew God himself, in the flesh. Judas had the most opportunity to know and understand the truth of the gospel. Judas was greatly loved by the Lord.
When I consider the obsession with self that led to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, I grieve over the irony. Just as Jesus taught that he who seeks to save his life will lose it and he who loses he life will save it, Judas, in his gross, habitual self-seeking, lost everything good he had ever been given.
It was Judas’s loss when he betrayed Christ. Judas lost not only the best friend he could ever have, but he also lost his connection to the Lord, his privileged position in the kingdom, his soundness of mind, and ultimately his own life.
Perhaps the most devastating part of Judas’s story is his unwillingness to repent. Judas preferred to die than to humble himself and ask forgiveness. Judas was full of pride and power-seeking. Bad as it was, it wasn’t his betrayal that condemned him. It was his stubborn unwillingness to admit, confess, and repent afterwards.
Consider Peter. Peter denied Jesus three times and left him to die. Why didn’t he end up like Judas?
Peter repented. He submitted to the Father’s authority and he changed.
The realization that Jesus Christ was more than willing to forgive even Judas out of his great love and mercy is a tragedy for those who refuse to repent.
The other day I was out for a walk and Whitney Houston’s version of “Jesus Loves Me” began to play on my itunes.
“Jesus loves me, this I know,
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong,
they are weak but he is strong.”
Childhood memories of Sunday school and early faith came along with the melody. Later, my six year old placed a previously misplaced stuffed lamb on my pregnant belly. Her once favorite toy, “Lamby” came from a lady at church when her older sister was born. Lamby plays “Jesus Loves Me.” She was sharing the song with her new sibling the best way she knew how. Still later my husband and I were listening to a sermon on the radio and the preacher repeated the same line at least four or five times: “God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. God loves you.”
Our good Father’s solution to injustice and evil is repentance and forgiveness. It is we who choose his wrath and condemnation instead – just like Judas.
No amount of revenge or justice serving fixes the pain left by betrayal because the love one has for the betrayer long remains. Forgiveness is the only way to peace for those who hold out hope for either repentance or ultimate justice in the here after for those whom we have loved that injure us.
God holds out his hands all day long to we who continually betray him. He offers forgiveness and hope before we ever repent. He waits with outstretched arms for us to come, to confess, to repent, to ask for and accept his already appropriated forgiveness.
Our Father is waiting. Come.