Hugging Judas

Posted on: July 18, 2012 Written by
Hugging Judas
      Photography by: Tatiana Gladskikh from iStock    

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 am sorry that you feel that way; you will 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 could not understand why she did not speak up for me. She just turned her face to the window when I tried to look her in the eye.

Judas.

I knew for a fact that I wielded a dangerous weapon—my tongue. I could have slashed these girls to pieces now and then continued to destroy them and their reputations in our group. I had the power to defend myself in the strongest of terms, but 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? It was 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.”

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. It was His love that sustained me and strengthened me to do the right thing when I faced my Judas.

 

© 2012 Women of the Harvest.

Questions to Consider: How has this article impacted you? Have you faced betrayal? Were you able to follow in Christ’s steps in responding to “your Judas”?



About the author

April and her husband are working in University Ministries in Costa Rica. She also teaches English to Latino missionaries who will need English in their country of calling. She has 3 kids who keep her extra busy and keep messing up the house. April also blogs about ministry and family at www.monkeysinmybag.wordpress.com

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  • Souad (Sue)

    Great Article!, I meet Judases all the time, like everyone else who is involved in ministry. Your atitute is the right one because fighting back is wrong. Our goal in ministry is to win souls not battles. As you mentioned, we have the Lord Jesus as our great example and the Holy Spirit to empower us to do the right thing.
    Thanks April. Your article has encouraged me and reminded me that I am not alone in such a situation.
    God bless you,
    Sue

    • I’m glad the article encouraged you! I think it’s important for us ministry people to be honest with each other and quit pretending like we’re never hurt. Bless you, Sue.

  • Judi

    Thank you. I needed to read this. It really hurts and I can identify with Christ a little more. Only partially but a little more.

    • I’m glad this helped. I used to say “shepherding is hard because the sheep bite.” Many tears are shed as we pour out our lives for Jesus.

  • Cyndie

    I tell my daughters: “Humility always wins.” I realize this isn’t true in the world’s eyes, but it is in the Lord’s. Thanks for being such a great example of this.

    • Your daughters will see your lovely example too!

  • Katie Peacock

    But, but, but. . . . what happened after that. Was it game over as far as any further ministry to any of the girls?

    • You win some and you lose some. Two of them eventually walked away from God, the other two pulled it together in different ways and are serving the Lord today. You just never know how far your ripples will travel. We won’t know until it’s all said and done and we stand before the Lord.

      • Anonymous

        I’ve had my betrayers too, and know the pain you’ve described. And though humble silence was Jesus’ way with Judas, I’m struck with how the Apostle Paul defended himself against attack. Even to the point of saying:

        ‘ I’d be most happy to empty my pockets, even mortgage my life, for your good. So how does it happen that the more I love you, the less I’m loved?’ 2 Cor 12:15

        I wonder if it is right to vigorously stand up for truth, as he did, in some situations.

        • That was something that I had to weigh in my own heart. I finally chose the course of action that I did because I didn’t want to damage these girls permanently. It’s a decision that each person must come to on their own depending on their situation and how God leads them. Believe me, I wanted to defend myself strongly!!

  • Crayola

    It hurts when our best efforts to forge friendships and thereby influence teens are dashed to pieces. I’ve experienced that pain and rejection, too. It wasn’t pleasant. However, it makes me think about the Savior’s great love for me and how I respond to his offer of friendship.

  • Wondering

    The article made me wonder: What was going on in the hearts and minds of those young women. What was God doing in their lives right then? Is it okay to NOT go to every single youth event? Sure! I went to lots of youth events, but quite honestly, when someone “excitedly reminds” me that I should sign up and tells me that I will “miss a good time”, that is almost enough to convince me that that one is not for me.

    I am reading chapter 7 of Bryant Myers’ “Walking with the Poor” where he says “the bottom line is that we need to be concerned about who gets worshiped at the end of the… program… Whatever we put at the center of the program will tend to be what [they] worship in the end.” p207-08 He then goes on to mention that what gets worshiped may be technology, an organization, a program, modernity or even me. Ouch. That hurts. I have put myself or other things at the center far too many times and it always has negative results.

    Right now I am ministering to a woman who knows a lot about the Triune God, who stands up boldly for what is right in multiple situations, who works for reconciliation in people’s relationships, who prays to Jesus and asks him for help (if he really exists), but who repeatedly says that she is not sure that God exists. She says she has faith in Christians but not in God. I am thankful that she recognizes this and has enough wisdom to continue to verbalize it.

    April, I feel sad as I read this article, because it seems that your greatest concern is for what these girls think about you after all that you have done for them. Yes, it is hard to handle rejection well. And it is something that we all need grace to do – even those daily little rejections. But our goal is not that we be accepted by others but that God be glorified in my life and in each person to whom I minister.

    • Gringa

      This response to the article makes me sad.

      Certainly it is true that God be glorified above all else, and this article does just that. Without people like April bravely and vulnerably sharing their painful experiences, the rest of us in ministry often feel as though we are alone when similar things happen to us and can become discouraged and defeated. We need to hear the stories of others and their humanness. We need to hear that when we feel like we want to lash out and retaliate that Jesus rescues us at the deepest point of our pain. At times we even need to hear the stories of those who gave in to their weakness, suffered the consequences for it and then watched God work it all for the good in spite of them. And, at times, like April, we need to dare to tell our own stories so that others might know they are not alone.

      Anyone who has ever worked with teenagers in any country knows how volatile that ministry can be even under the best of circumstances. Add to that the fact that the ministry is taking place in a foreign country, complete with a new language and unfamiliar culture and the emotional, physical, and spiritual stakes just tripled or quadrupled.

      I feel grateful to April as I read this article because the power, love, mercy, and grace of our Lord is so evident. Was she hurt? Yes. Did she respond in the way her flesh urged her to? No. It is a most beautiful picture of God’s love for the girls she sacrificed for and the way He loves her as the wounded one as well – one of human betrayal met with divine response. For more on the human longing for justice followed up by God’s strength to overcome it see the book of Psalms.

      • Thank You Gringa, that was beautiful. You have captured the heart of the article perfectly.

        Sorry I’m so late in responding to some of these last comments, we have a team of 33 college students in country right now and when we do have internet, I have to jump on and take advantage of the moment. 🙂 Crazy wonderful life!

        But to respond to Wondering, I could care less if they came to the prayer retreat for MY sake. What hurt me was their hatred towards me- and it totally blind sided me. Sure they would miss out on what God wanted to do in their lives if they didn’t go to the event, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about loving someone and being hurt by them and loving them again. I wrote this because as a minister, I think one of the most dangerous and life draining misconceptions is that we should never share our hurts with others. We harden ourselves and isolate ourselves and somehow think we are still fit to help others. It’s not healthy. So I wanted to break the silence and maybe encourage other people who have loved and been hurt in ministry too. That’s all I wanted to do.

  • Joyce

    I appreciate you sharing that experience. It’s really tough to bare your heart & soul and share such moments of heartbreak and disappointment–as well as betrayal in your ministry. It is discouraging at times in the ministry, but we must keep on, in spite of those moments. I was glad for Katie Peacock’s question asking, “But, but, but. . . . what happened after that?” I was wondering the same thing. At least the seeds you sowed into those girls lives were not totally in vain, nor the hours of time & prayer you poured into their lives. Knowing that two of them did finally get their lives back on track with God is encouraging, And, as for the other two, like you said, ” We won’t know until it’s all said and done and we stand before the Lord.” Who knows, even later in their lives, those little seeds of the gospel that you planted may begin to germinate and grow!!

    • And nothing would make me happier than to see all 4 of them in Heaven some day!

  • Meredith

    Thanks for sharing this, and thank you for sharing it in spite of its seeming lack of resolution. So many times we read the glory stories, where we responded in love, and everything ends up affirming your sacrifice. Testimonies like yours are important, because in real life we often don’t see the fruit of our sacrifices for many years, if ever. Our obedience should be based on the character of Jesus, not on the outcome. God bless you.

  • Laurie

    I’ve been ministering overseas for about 9 years, and am trying still to learn this lesson. What do you do, though when the betrayer is your leader? What do you do when you hear them lying and backstabbing? When you confront them with the Truth from God’s word and they say that you are unsubmissive and rebellious for not following them unquestioningly when they are making decisions that are unbiblical and ruining people’s lives?

    • Yep, I’d find a different leader- that’s my personal response. I made the decision to be gentle in dealing with these girls because they were CHILDREN for one, and they were UNDER me spiritually speaking. Yes, they hurt me, took low blows, but I didn’t want to crush them or cause lasting damage. I hoped they would turn their hearts back around and I didn’t want to be the cause of them rejecting the Church or God. But a leader who abuses power is another story.

      I always tell our students, If you feel called into missions, be sure to choose an organization whose leadership you can respect and whose form you can work within. You can waste all your time changing and organization and resisting the leadership, or you can work within a comfortable, compatible, supportive system and get a lot done for the Kingdom. There are many, many missions organizations out there. None are perfect, but you should pick one that you can work with peacefully.

      • “changing an organization” sorry about the typo.

  • Lidia

    Ohh, this was the perfect message that I needed. And the comments were usefull. Right now I am in a very critical moment. I was so much hurted by those who I ministried, that I am ready to stop ministring and take a break. Jesus didnt do this..so I am not on the best way… I have to reconsider my opinion. But is so hard to look everyday in the eyes of those who will continuu to hurt….

  • Elaine

    Thank you for this inspiring article. Thanks for the explanation on what happened to the girls. It must have taken real courage to keep working with them in spite of how you were treated. I’m not sure I could have done it that well. I commend you for sharing this with us as missionaries. It’s good to hear how someone else is being used by the Lord. May He bless you as you continue to serve Him.

  • Chrisi

    Jesus is so amazing … a very present help in our time of need! He has been teaching me this very lesson in my marriage. Yesterday I was talking to a friend who has also been betrayed many times by close family members. As we talked, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me wisdom and the right words to speak. There were many distractions and I fear I was not able to express myself as I wanted to. Then this morning I read this article! Hallelujah! The Holy Spirit through you out into words just what I wanted to share wkth her heart. Praise God!

  • Linda

    Thank you April for sharing your heart in such a vulnerable way.
    It has to be one of the hardest things we ever go through to be betrayed by the people we have poured our lives into. We were missionaries in Eastern Europe for seven years and had a mixture of the usual difficulties of working cross-culturally and also victories in ministries. We had a situation develop where the main group of people we were ministering to and working with turned on us (mostly swayed by one or two individuals). As we found ourselves in the situation we began to realise that the best choice we had left was to pack up and leave the mission field in an effort to stop a possible church split which would have torn apart all the work we had done and many good people’s lives. We didn’t want to leave, but we chose to for the good of the church. It has been a long, slow process for us to recover from this, but God is helping us.

  • Carito

    Thank you for your article, April. I don’t know if you will even see this comment since here it is 6 months since your article was published. There was a reason this edition got buried in my inbox, because 6 months ago I wouldn’t have been able to relate to your experience, but I sure can now. I live just to the north of you, in Nicaragua, and although I’ve been in missions over 10 years, I’ve only been with my current org about 6 months. I too work with teen girls, and although in this extremely non-confrontative culture, no one has ever said, “We don’t like you,” they have certaintly communicated that sentiment in many other ways. Even those who I thought I had a good relationship with, who call me “mama” and embrace me in private, reject me when in front of other youth. My greatest desire is for these young women is for them to come to know and follow Christ before they mess up their lives. But the best way to lead them to Christ is through relationships, and that is what I have trouble forming.
    I appreciate your aricle because I have been crying out to God for wisdom, racking my brains and searching my spirit, thinking I was doing something wrong and have to do something different. I have even considered leaving the youth work and focusing on other ministry. It really helps to know that I am not the only one who is going through such an experience, and your article is encouragement to just keep loving these girls and not give up. Thanks for sharing.