February 12, 2013

The worst loneliness

For the past few days, my devotional readings have been about loneliness. It happens when I feel helpless, when I doubt God and when I am focused on myself. All three dance around the very worst loneliness — the loneliness of sin.
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. (John 13:21–30)

Notice that one disciple who was positive that Jesus loved him (and who wrote this passage) is leaning against Jesus. Can anyone be closer to God than that, or more intimate with the Holy One?

But there is that other disciple. He has already accepted a payment to betray Jesus. He must have been sitting close enough for Jesus to reach out and offer him bread, but he was far from being close to Jesus. In an act of hypocrisy, he accepted the bread and then Satan entered him.

Jesus knew. No sin goes without His knowing, but instead of a warning and a rebuke, He told Judas to go for it. Jesus knew that His Father had purpose for this betrayal, so He did not resist. The disciple left — on his way to deliver Jesus to death and on his way to his own destruction.

What was going on in the mind of Judas as he closed the door of the upper room behind him and walked out into the night? Imagine leaving a dinner party where everyone loves each other. You are alone and not included in that love. Worse yet, you are going to harm the host and scatter the rest. Was he gleeful? I don’t think so. Today’s devotional writer thinks that at that point, Judas experienced deep and shattering loneliness.

Sin is antisocial and destructive. It ruins relationships and puts up barriers. It separates us from God and from one another. Sin is not graded on a scale in the Bible, but if it were, what Judas was doing would be at the very lowest point.

For some strange reason, going in we think sin will make us happy. It doesn’t. In the end, it drives us into the night, away from all love, family, friends and fellowship. In His parables, Jesus spoke of one sheep who went astray, one coin that was lost, one son who left home for a far country. Why not five sheep or two coins? In using a solitary number, Jesus illustrates two things. One is that He cares about individuals, but also that those who choose sin are lost and alone.

I’ve learned the truth expressed in the devotional, that every sin I conquer leads me to richer fellowship with others, but every sin I deliberately cling to is a mighty power that drives me into the dark. Those who choose to stay in that darkness without repentance and turning back are in danger of being lonely and alone forever — and that is hell.

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