First, it was a Nashville newspaper, with its slanted article featuring one digressive church, touting that churches of Christ are shedding their isolationist position. “Isolationism” is always bad. It’s a cousin of intolerance.
Then, Abilene Christian University announced its new president, Phil Schubert, who had promised to continue the university’s direction toward a general evangelical position, when he stated,
“We need to strike an appropriate balance between a quest for academic excellence and an unwavering commitment to the spiritual development of our students; between the need to honor our own Church of Christ heritage while embracing the growing influence from broader Christian circles; and between the need to ensure a firm grasp on our values and traditions while promoting a culture which encourages new ideas and an innovative spirit.”
Then, just days thereafter, Ken Starr, who started among us but left us long ago, promises to become a Southern Baptist on (or was it before?) becoming president of that denomination’s largest center of learning, Baylor University. The Baptists are fractured, and though there are many among them qualified for the position, the power brokers decided on his star power (no pun intended) for potential fundraising ability as much as anything. “… Baylor regents chairman Dary Stone took the attention given Starr in stride, saying he will raise the university’s national profile.”
Faithful brethren sometimes feel embarrassed or ashamed when the world and the media point to people in our midst, like these, who deny the Lord who bought them, or when ministries or schools abandon biblical teaching to merge into the religious world at large, looking to establish themselves as a legitimate entity.
Like the parents of wayward children, twinges of guilt pierce the mind, along with questions of what might have been done to prevent the departures.
Self-examination is always good, though we should not let the world’s sneers and the pointed fingers of the progressives (i.e., digressives), who love to look down their noses at us and tell us how bad we are, send us into a tailspin.
The departures mentioned above, together with attempts to paint us as trolls and monsters, serve as an opportunity to note Jesus’ reactions to one among the Twelve who decided to take matters into his own hands rather than follow the Master.
1. Jesus warned the apostles.
Jesus specifically told his followers that he would be betrayed (Mark 9:31; 10:33). They should not have been surprised. He tried to prepare them for that moment, but their hard-headed thinking about a triumphal earthly kingdom keep them from hearing his plain words.
Saints should not be shocked when people arise from within the body of Christ and speak evil of the Way. They will appear to be wise, steady and the calmest of people. They will come across as studied, serious and judicious. Judas was not an obvious traitor; he appeared to be as solid as the next disciple, but in his heart grew another love, and his actions betrayed the Lord.
Some of the best people among us have abandoned the truth. Some of our best schools are now promoting false doctrine. Not a few ministries that have contributed greatly to the progress of the gospel now undermine their earlier work with tainted teachings.
We have been warned! Let us look to ourselves, that we not lose faith.
2. Jesus provided opportunity for Judas’ repentance.
Even at the last, Jesus questioned Judas, attempting to break through his wicked plan. “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48). Jesus offers him a final opportunity to realize his deed and stand with the Lord.
Though, as in Judas’ case, few come back to the Lord after turning their back on him, saints should leave the door open for repentance. The faithful disciples should not harbor resentment or disdain in their hearts, but be willing to welcome back those who discover that what promised liberty was a trap for enslavement.
3. Jesus used the betrayal, through the providence and plan of the Father, to further the divine purpose.
In John’s account, Jesus is shown clearly to be not a pawn, but the main player. When the crowd arrives, John said, “Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. ‘Who are you looking for?’ he asked” (John 18:4). He told them to let the others go free (vv. 8-9). He stops Peter and the others from defending him: “No more of this!” he cries (Luke 22:51), and heals the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus controls the situation, because it is God’s plan.
God is not the creator of evil, but he does use it to further his will. Even the most hurtful betrayals he can use for good. What God may accomplish through man’s evil is not always evident to his people, but we may rest in the truth of his sovereignty and place our confidence in his powerful working for the Kingdom.
Joe Gray wrote a booklet a few years ago, in which he encouraged us to look at the opportunities in the present crisis when so many are leaving the faith for the other side of the fence. Time to stop being embarrassed at high-profile defections, or moaning about losses. Let’s see the good work that can be done in the midst of this moment.
For those who leave the faith and for those unwitting souls who follow them, we grieve. But for the truth of the gospel, we make no apologies. We would be a friend to all, bring a blessing to those who believe, share eternal life with those ready to obey.
Still may it be said that “there is much to do, there’s work on every hand.” Let us be up and out, with our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, as he shows us the way.