Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Man Who Betrayed Christ Yet Kept His Integrity

The world Integrity is defined as "a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility."

It's the last part of this definition that catches my attention. Incorruptibility. Just the very word leaves the impression of strength. The inability to be swayed from one's moral compass.

The scene opens up with Jesus and His Apostles sitting in the upper room partaking in the passover feast. Jesus had just revealed to His followers that one of them would betray Him, and as would be expected, they began to question who it would be. But there was no questioning on Jesus' part. He knew exactly who would betray Him. He knew whose kiss would seal His fate. Someone belonging to Jesus' inner circle had a momentary lapse of integrity. At the very least, they were not incorruptible.

However, Peter being true to his nature, stood up in front of the other Apostles, and in an attempt to set himself above the rest, proudly declared that he would go to the death with Jesus (John 13:37). I can imagine the scene in my mind. With his body half turned toward Jesus, and half turned to the others, Peter swears such an allegiance while beating his right fist against his chest in an act of dramatics.

However, Jesus had to deliver bad news to Peter as well.

Not only would Judas Iscariot betray Christ, but Simon Peter would also deny Him. And not just once, but three times before the cock would crow (John 13:36-38).

"Impossible!" Peter said.

"Wait and see, then." replied Christ.

I have no doubt in my mind that Jesus knew what fate would become of Judas Iscariot, and He had the wisdom to resign Himself to it. However, Jesus didn't give up hope on Simon Peter.

Two men, both committing what essentially amounts to the same crime against Jesus. In this instance, denial is betrayal. It doesn't matter how you cut it. The two are inseparably linked. Two men committing essentially the same act, yet two different paths were taken by each man. Judas Iscariot sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. At the very moment Peter opened his mouth and uttered the final denial, the cock opened its mouth and crowed the fulfillment of Jesus' words.

And it's at that very moment that Jesus' eyes met Peters. I was perhaps this look from Jesus that saved Peter from sharing Judas' fate.

Both men had lost their integrity. One loss was made permanent, but one was only temporary. In fact we know that Simon Peter went on to be a great leader for the early church, and even delivered the first sermon after Christ's crucifixion. Talk about a come back!

I often wonder what was going through Jesus' mind when He looked into Simon Peter's eyes early that morning (Luke 22:61,62). I can only speculate, but I don't believe it was spite or anger or an "I told you so!" attitude. These thoughts would have been completely against Christ's character. In fact, Jesus had probably already forgiven Peter, and was thinking about how great of a leader he would go on to be, despite this minor slip-up. Jesus could recognize talent, and He saw it in Peter.

Yet, here we still have a crossroads. Two men, two acts, two decisions to be made. We have an instance where one man had a momentary lapse of integrity, and betrayed Jesus at His weakest hour, yet he went on to recover. On the other hand, we have a man who did the same exact thing, yet didn't even attempt to recover his integrity. He went out and resigned himself to his self-imposed fate.

So the question is, who decides if we have integrity or not? The answer is only we can make that decision. To me, this is rooted in the fact that it doesn't matter if you have a lapse of integrity, what matters is what you do after the lapse.

Did Peter collapse under pressure and become momentarily corrupted? Yes.

Is that all he is known for? No.

 Did Judas Iscariot become momentarily corrupted? Yes.

Is that what he is known for? Pretty much.

What is sad is that Judas was not beyond forgiveness for his actions, yet he resigned himself to a fate that did not need to be. It's true that we are in fact human and subject to a lapse of integrity on occasion. Having integrity does not mean never stumbling, but rather whether you pick yourself back up or not. Peter betrayed Christ, yet he was able to recover and keep his integrity. The old saying is, "It doesn't matter how to run the race, but whether or not you finished it." .

So you've made some mistakes in life. Do you go out and resign yourself to your fate, like Judas? Or do you take a queue from Peter and look Jesus in the eyes, accept His forgiveness, and cross the finish line upholding your integrity?

Only you can make that choice. So what will it be?

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