Lent is a time to look inward
How gut-wrenchingly hurtful it must have been to be reclining at supper with your closest friends, actually your followers, and knowing that this would be your last meal together because one of them would betray you and turn you over to your worst enemies for execution.
How deeply it cut because all of you had been together constantly for the past three years. You traveled together, taught and healed, fed and ministered to people throughout the region. You were close, but now betrayal had crept in.
As the leader, you had challenged the system. The religious authorities wanted you out of the way. But it was not like this scoundrel in your group was doing his patriotic duty. You were not a traitor. It could not have been for criminal activity that he was turning you in, for you had done nothing wrong -- ever.
Some say he had reasons that are debated to this day, but it seems clear that greed was a motive. As treasurer of the group, he had stolen from the bag on occasion. Now he is selling you out for 30 pieces of silver. Betrayed for money.
A passage of Scripture, Mark 14, reveals that Jesus was with his disciples observing the Passover feast when he says, "Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with me will betray me." The followers were sorrowful and asked one by one, "Is it I?" They knew he was omniscient and knew who it was, even if they themselves did not.
Each asked if he were the guilty one because they all realized they had the capacity to betray, if not the will. Jesus answered that it was one of the 12 who dipped with him in the dish. He knew, of course, that it was Judas Iscariot, and the Bible says, "It would have been good for that man if he had never been born."
Betrayal means perfidy, treachery, literally selling one out. Betrayal of trust can be one of the most devastating acts that can be committed against a person. When you have gained the confidence of someone, there are expectations that you will handle that relationship with dignity and integrity.
Consider the home environment. In my estimation, parenting is an awesome responsibility. Parents are helping to shape the destiny of their offspring for the rest of that child's life. Children deserve positive role models and parents ought to be primary, living so that their children will do as they do, and not simply as they say. To do any less, it seems to me, is a betrayal of the children's trust.
Spousal relationships are vulnerable to betrayal especially in the areas of finances and fidelity. Suggestive, unbridled and open lifestyles as portrayed in the media are definite challenges to stable households.
Betrayal is not limited to family situations. The potential is all around us. In the world of politics, it is almost assumed that promises that are made to win votes or garner campaign contributions will certainly be broken when that person takes office. In the public arena, the motivation of greed still exists.
Take, for instance, the housing crisis that played a major part in bringing the national economy to its knees. With betrayal of trust at various levels, people with dubious credit or no credit history at all were approved for mortgagees when they clearly did not qualify. These subprime mortgages were eventually bundled into complex investment products sparking transactions that led to bank bailouts and a weakened economy.
It is a betrayal of consumers' trust when corporations knowingly bring faulty products to market. A betrayal of student trust when some teachers and students try to manipulate SAT and standardized test scores to their advantage. A betrayal of trust of young people when there is inappropriate behavior by youth leaders or other authority figures.
At this Lenten season leading to the commemoration of the Passion of Christ, is it not a good time for self-examination? It is always important to know how others perceive us, but perhaps more significant how we view ourselves.
After all, we know things about ourselves that no one else knows or ever will know. We must deal with our innermost thoughts. We are constantly making decisions great and small. How will we govern our lives?
For many, their walk with God is paramount. He sets the standards that we ought to pursue, while seeking never to betray his trust in us. If we sincerely seek a life of virtue and integrity, a heart check is always in order.
I love the words of "An Evening Song": "If I have wounded any soul, today; if I have caused one foot to go astray; if I have walked in my own willful way, Dear Lord, forgive.''
The Rev. Louis A. Butcher Jr. is pastor of Bright Side Baptist Church. He is also a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At this Lenten season ... is it not a good time for self-examination? It is always important to know how others perceive us, but perhaps more significant how we view ourselves.