Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
When the Roman soldiers arrested Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane; Judas, one of his disciples, identified him with a kiss. To which Jesus responded, "Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss" (Luke 22:47). Judas committed the most cruel, nerve-racking betrayal. Outwardly he acted as an intimate friend. Inwardly he was a hostile stranger to Christ.
Let's not judge Judas, for our life is not without the sin of Judas! Is our confession of Christ only a mask, concealing from the view of people the fact that our heart never converted to Christ and is still centered in greed, the lust of the flesh, and pride? The vital question is not whether God exists; rather do we love, trust and obey him? Make no mistake, behaviour betrays who’s the boss of our life –who do we love! We were created to love God and one another, why we left the path of love, what went amiss! The story begins with God.
The Glorious God
Do we appreciate; creation of humanity is God’s ultimate act of hospitality! Creation came into existence through the Word of God, who made room for us (John 1:3). God is Host who created space for humanity and the awesome universe we live in. When he created Adam and Eve their privilege was to live in the pristine environment of the Garden of Eden. God is host and all humanity is His guest. Everything begins with God as the source. We owe our life to God. God is the ultimate example of using power to benefit others. Now that is hospitality!
While all that God created was good, concerning Adam’s loneliness He said, is not good. (Genesis 2:18). Adam’s human connection need was joyfully completed when God created Eve for mutual companionship. God’s design was and remains first relationship with him and then with each other. As the divine Host, God set down regulations for the behaviour of his guests. Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9). God warned, "When you eat of it you will surely die." (Gen. 2:17). They had an amazing opportunity to choose life by deciding to trust and obey God’s Word! Wrong choice meant no life at all! The heartbreaking sorrow is that in spite of expressing gratitude for the gift of life, they betrayed God. How did it happen? Satan tempted them; it’s he who tempts us as well.
The Beginning Of Betrayal
To cast doubt on God’s Word Satan engaged Eve in a dialogue. He said, "Did God actually say, "You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? He then implanted unbelief in God’s truth. "You will not surely die." Next he suggested; God outlawed eating the fruit for selfish reasons. If you eat "you will be like God." He concluded; God is a selfish liar he cannot be trusted (Gen. 3:1-5). The deception is, something outside of God will ring fullness of life. The tragedy, Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lie. Step by step Satan drifted them away from God. Fall isn’t usually sudden, it’s a slow compromise, small betrayals; we take pleasure in sin. Human betrayal is an inner attitude of unbelief and a compelling desire for self-glorification. Let’s never overlook, Satan is hostile to God and his purposes. He craftily twists the truth to tempt and deceive. God had warned disobedience will have consequences.
The Consequences Of Betrayal
By disobeying God’s commandment humanity stands guilty in the presence of a Holy God. Physical death became our eventual destiny (Rom.6:23). The broken relationship with God is an experience of spiritual and moral death. Instead of harmony now there is discord and in place of mutual trust now suspicion. The human history
of self glorification through violent control and domination has led to massacre of innocent lives. In fully secular states millions have been killed because they refused to deny God; while millions have also been killed by states practicing belief in God. Aren’t some family problems rooted in spouses ugly desire to control and dominate? Our plight is the product of our own wilful disobedience. In spite of all the advancement of knowledge we are powerless to save ourselves. We need divine help. The good news is that God took the first step to save and restore us.
The Crucified Host
The Gospel of John tells us; the same word who made space for us in the universe; became flesh and took on the name of Jesus (John1:14). But tragically, when he came to his own people, his own received him not. We were not at all hospitable to him who is our ultimate Host. But isn’t that just the nature of the very sin Jesus came to die for? Aren’t we constantly building walls, shutting people out, slamming our front door in the face of other people and other creatures? Jesus came to this earth not to swing any doors shut behind him but to fling open the doors to the kingdom. Jesus invites all without distinction to freely experience his hospitality and connect with him. However rather than accepting God’s free offer of grace, our human pride deceives us into thinking, we can find our own way to God. Do you think that, we who betrayed God can establish relationship with him by our own efforts?
Our understanding of God determines how we approach him! Do you believe that God is static and there is no movement in him? Some tie God to a fix point and consider humans are dynamic. They think it is possible to move upward towards God through meditation and other means. This is not the Christian way of connecting
The Bible teaches that truth lies in quite the opposite direction. We are always in the static position unable to connect with God. However the Good News is that God moves towards us. God took human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and came to dwell among us (John1:14).
The cross of Christ is the greatest manifestation of the movement of God in the visible events of history. For on the cross our Cosmic Host was crucified for our sins. The cross is suffering in its greatest, most oppressive and unjust form. On the cross God became a victim. “We must also sense that the cross is, so to speak, the beast of burden upon which God Almighty rode to descend from His dwelling place, where he had been veiled from all eternity, and come to us and take us by the hand. The cross is the supreme power of the dynamism of God, which brought God down to us and clearly revealed him.” (Fr. Mata EI-Menken) The sacrificial love of Christ is manifested in that while we were by nature, weak, ungodly, sinners and enemies of God (Rom. 5:6-11), Jesus died for our sins and after three days physically rose from the dead.
In India a belief is prevalent that human suffering is the result of personal evil. If your answer is yes, then let me raise this question. Were the sufferings of freedom fighters of India a result of the evil they had done? Certainly not! They suffered in order to deliver India from the bondage of slavery of the British rule. Similarly the ghastly suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, was a penalty he paid for our sins. He did this in order to deliver us from the slavery of sin and Satan and to once again freely connect us to God. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead certifies, sinners through faith in Christ can now enjoy peace with God. The resurrection proclaims to the whole world, that God is trustworthy His Word is true.
The Trustworthy Life
A high-quality example of trust in God is that of life of Job. God allowed Satan to test Job's faith. The agonizing suffering of Job was unbearable for his wife whose suggestion to her husband was “curse God and die”. To this Job replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:7-10). Many people claim to be faithful to God, yet when they endure trials and tribulations they are quick to turn their back on God. Do we like Job love, trust and obey God? Who is the Lord of our life, time, talents and resources? Who controls our purse? Is our security in human ties and material resources? In a world becoming increasingly violent our calling is to live reconciliation with God and one another. Are we torch bearers of reconciliation?
Are we practicing hospitality? Christian hospitality reflects and participates in God's hospitality. God loves the sojourner and provides for the vulnerable. God gives the lonely a home and offers us a place at an abundant table. Hospitality depends on a disposition of love; it has more to do with the resources of a generous and grateful heart than with availability of food or space. Are we desirous of growth in our life? Then we must bring to end all our attempts to provide for ourselves. Instead we must turn to God as our source, for strength, truth, care, correction, for the healing of our emotions and memories, and for many more things. We must get back into relationship with God and one another. We must surrender to God as Lord. As Jesus said, the first and the greatest commandment is to love God first. It is this commandment that makes all others work. We must stop redesigning life and making new rules and instead live the life God designed us to live. This is the only way we will grow in all areas of our life. Let’s not forget all growth is spiritual growth.
Jesus loved and cared to die for us, what hinders from trusting him all of our life! Let us confess our failure of love. Let us seek forgiveness from Christ who paid the suffered for our sins that we might live through him and for him, our faithful Host. While suspicion and betrayal saturates our societies, remember to trust the crucified and resurrected Lord of Lords and King of Kings who never betray us. Hallelujah!