Wrestling with Judas

I’ve been getting into a lot of fights lately; not with my wife, not with friends or family,  not with co-workers or church members, and not with that stranger that nearly sideswiped me out on the highway (though I would have loved to have a ‘brief’ conversation with him).  The person I’ve been fighting with is a man named Judas…and if you’re honest, you’ve been in the ring a time or two with him as well.

Each of us have had to contend with a Judas in our lives.  Often “Judas” represents people who were close to us, whom we loved, who we gave our lives to, who later turn on us and walk away – often after they plunged a knife deep into our back.  But before you think this is a blog to trash all the “brethren” in your life…slow down.  The Judas I’m  referring to has been one closer and more personal to me than any other.  Someone I have to look in the face everyday.  That Judas is better known as self.

That’s right, the most dangerous Judas in your life, the one poised to do the most damage and the one you’re likely not paying attention to is the one that hides deep behind the offenses, broken promises and unfulfilled expectations in your heart. My own inner Judas is quick to take up past hurts and like a school yard bully, he’s looking for a good fight.  If we are going to win that fight, we are going to have take heed of Paul’s advice to the Romans:

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. – Rom 8:12-14

When Judas is yelling, “fight, fight, fight” in my ear, Scripture teaches that I have an obligation to ignore him, and listen to the Spirit (I’ve found that to be easier said than done).  That is so easy to preach, but so difficult to practice because Judas can land some pretty strong punches.  My natural reaction is to get in the flesh and fight right back, but that is not how we win this fight.

There are three intense punches that Judas can throw your way.  The “Sucker Punch”, the “Left Hook” and the “Uppercut”.  If you’re not ready for these, the chances are good your own Judas is going to triumph over you.  Let’s take a look at these three.

The “Sucker Punch”

How many times have you been hit in the gut by broken promises or unfulfilled expectations?  It’s common for people to over-promise, yet under-deliver.  When promises are broken and expectations go unfulfilled you’re left feeling like the wind has been knocked out of you and it becomes so tempting to be offended.

Newsflash! You are going to be offended!  Jesus said so and history proves it.  I could hand you a ‘loooong’ list of promises that have been made to me by well intentioned people that because of situations, circumstances or poor recollections remain unfulfilled.  Judas keeps that list in his hand and constantly reminds me of it.  If I let him, he will keep bringing them up until the offense settles in my heart and I start to let those relationships grow cold and distant.

If I am to overcome, I have to learn to let it go.  It helps to recall how many well intentioned promises I’ve made that remain unfulfilled.  Isn’t it interesting that we love to hold others to a higher standard than we do ourselves?  We judge others by their actions but we judge ourselves by our intentions.  We’re quick to extended ourselves so much grace, it’s time we extend that grace to others as well!  If you do you’ll find that  grace cushions the blow of the “sucker punch”.

The “Left Hook”

Another effective punch in Judas’ arsenal is the one that comes from your blindside.  How many times have you been caught completely unaware by a situation or circumstance?  You were looking at the wrong thing and suddenly, wham, you’re hit upside the head.   Judas is a master of getting you to see something that isn’t there.  While you’re distracted, he comes in from the other-side to leave you wondering what just happened. This is an effective “one-two punch”.

First, he has you see someone else in the wrong light.  Perhaps it’s through an offense of the past, or maybe it’s a personality trait that just strikes you the wrong way.  Whatever it is, we start to view the individual purely through that perspective.  It doesn’t matter what they say, how they say it, or what they do…everything is interpreted through the lens that we’ve created for that person.

Second, he has you see yourself in the best light.  Judas would never tell you the truth about yourself.  He flatters you, tells you how great you are and how much you deserve something greater.  He reminds you how you’d do a better job than those you serve under.  He inflates your pride and strokes your ego.

This is such an effective combo because it’s human nature to see yourself better than others.  I hear Judas now, “You’d never do anything like they did, you wouldn’t have made that mistake, you could do so much better.”  Jesus whispers something else, he reminds you to deal with the plank in your eye (remember that lens you created) before you can help your brother with his speck.  I’ve learned that I’m more likely to see “the issue” in another person’s life that I’m actually dealing with in my own.  When I remember that, it keeps me ducking that “left hook” when it comes my way.

The “Uppercut”

The last hit and the hardest is the “uppercut”.  It comes from underneath and when landed square on your jaw, it leaves you lifeless on the mat.  These are the legitimate wrongs that people will bring into your life.  They are the lies told about you and the deceitful practices that steal, kill and destroy.  These are not misunderstandings.  They are malicious attacks brought your way by someone who wished to do you harm.  I wish I could tell you that everyone of these that have come my way came as persecution from the outside…but you know that’s not the case.  Most have come at the hands of brethren who knew full well what they were doing when they did it.

When this happens every vindictive bone in my body wants to stand up and fight back.  Again, Judas is right there making the case, “I have a right to fight!  I’ve been wronged, I would be justified in my response.”  However, the fight I choose to take up in my hands is the fight I take out of God’s hands.  Consider how Jesus, knowing that Judas would betray him, still sat with him at the table, offered him bread and then told him to go do what he had to do.  I hope I too can learn to let Judas take a shot at my chin, knock me down and instead of fighting back, I simply get back up.  WHY?

There is one thing that is certain.  Judas will eventually hang himself and I want to make sure that I am nowhere around when he finds himself at the end of his rope.  There is only one way to deal with the Judas you are wrestling with.  You must to take him to the Cross and hang him on that tree, otherwise Judas will take you away from the Cross and hang you on his tree.  Remember what Paul wrote, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:13).

Let me leave you with this.  Having a Judas in your life is not unique.  Having to contend with your inner-Judas is not uncommon.  But winning the fight, by never throwing a punch, well that is revolutionary!


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