March 30, 2015
You can’t find a story worth telling – or, hearing – that isn’t seasoned by betrayal. Sleep comes quickly if your bedside book tells only happy tales of people whose sublime pursuits are never opposed by someone they once loved and trusted.
Every captivating plot weaves a similar tapestry: someone with a powerful, positive future lays the groundwork for their dreams with the formation of friendships founded on love and trust. They begin to advance on their imaginations, while giving of themselves to those around them whose high-value to the hero/heroine is proven by their selfless service and provision.
Then, in the intrusive plot-twist that characterizes captivating epics… with no legitimate provocation, a trusted friend becomes an embittered enemy through intentional betrayal. Something primal is tapped when betrayal is delivered by one who was unsuspected as capable for the most heinous of violations.
This week’s reminder of the Greatest Story brings it all into focus. Just yesterday, the picture of Palm Sunday featured mostly happy faces. The crowd with palm fronds were zany with zeal; caught up in messiah fervor, the One on the colt was rumored to be the soon-to-be-crowned King. A dozen colleagues – who had been in lock-step with the Nazarene for three years – surrounded the donkeycade; their promotion to prominence would follow His installation.
The Pharisees couldn’t betray Jesus; He never trusted them. Their secret acts of subterfuge were conspiracy, certainly… but Jesus had foretold that as He marched down the timeline of His mission. You expect enemies to strategize your destruction; anything less would be unlikely.
As the Holy Week unfolded, the Betrayer would cross points of decision from which there would be no retreat. The deal made with the religious rulers could have been renounced; the moment of moral clarity could have come in the Upper Room, with a warning to avoid the Mount of Olives later that night. Up until the last moment – with the kiss that picked the Lamb out of the line-up – he could have reneged, and his name would have simply been remembered as one of the 12.
God knows a thing or two about betrayal. His elevation of Lucifer – “Son of the Morning” – to the top ranks of the angelic host wasn’t good enough to keep betrayal out of heaven. The perfection of Eden was the environment most likely to give Adam and Eve everything they could ever want… except that which they could never have. Betrayal is never surprising; great stories cannot be great without betrayal.
An underlying principle, by the Creator’s edict: our better lives – and, our best pursuits – will be utterly dependent on other people. Notably, that’s more than just a proficiency plan: it’s the reminder that community is the foundation for life by God’s design.
But, as soon as community forms, and people connect and partner for common effort, two things happen in parallel: your regard for the person – and, your trust on their dependability – will grow. With those positive relational factors comes the risk of betrayal.
There’s little pain associated with an attack from an enemy; the anguish from a vetted insider can create a wound that will never fully heal…
The world has their own solution for that liability: “We have to distrust each other. It’s our only defense against betrayal.” (Tennessee Williams).
The Easter hero has a different perspective: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:33-34).