(Read John 6:66-6:71)
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”
I’m currently reading Joshua Ryan Butler’s excellent book, The Skeletons in God’s Closet. In chapter seven, Butler tells the story of a friend of his named Jeremiah. He was a Native American, much older than Butler, and he hated Christianity. As their friendship grew Jeremiah shared with Butler the reasons why. He was taken from his family and forced to live in a boarding school where native children were trained for assimilation into Western society. Jeremiah was humiliated when they forcibly cut his long hair and he was humiliated again when they cut him at his required circumcision.
Years ago his grandfather had been cut too. Only for him it was his tongue. They cut it out when he refused to stop teaching the youth of his tribe their native language.
Jeremiah’s family was considered counterproductive to the effort to assimilate him, so he was placed with a white family during the summer months when the boarding school wasn’t in session.
But that’s not the worst of it.
Finally, there was the loss. As an altar boy in a local church, Jeremiah was molested by a priest and lost his virginity. This only exacerbated his sense of shame and powerlessness in a culture not his own. The abuse would continue for years to come, but it was not the only loss Jeremiah would experience.
Eventually, Jeremiah fell head over heels in love. When he proposed to his high school sweetheart, she said yes. But, their joy was short-lived. His fiancée was murdered in a racial attack, her car forced off the side of the road by four white boys from the local Catholic high school.
Jeremiah had experienced great loss at the hands of Jesus’ ambassadors: his body molested and his fiancée killed.
Jeremiah hated Christianity. And I can’t say that I blamed him. (Butler)
“Jesus’ ambassadors.” They really blow it sometimes don’t they?
But I’m not writing this post to rain down on Jesus’ bad ambassadors. Jesus does that himself. He said that whoever causes a child to stumble would be better off to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and drowned in the sea. He calls the group of religious leaders of his day a “brood of vipers.” He says of the bad ambassadors that they “shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.” Jesus’ brother James says pastors, priests, and all those who teach will be held to a stricter standard by God Himself. But don’t take my word for it, read Matthew chapter 23 for yourself. Jesus condemns God’s bad ambassadors. (Matthew 18:6, Matthew 23:33-36, Matthew 23:13, James 3:1)
Joshua Ryan Butler writes: “When people say they are upset about pedophile priests, greedy televangelists, and the multitude of everyday hypocrisies that take place in our churches, I say, “I know, Jesus is too!”
Butler goes on to point out that Jesus warns the churches against such bad behavior. Jesus says if the churches don’t repent of their sins he will “remove us from God’s presence, fight us with a sword, cause us to suffer intensely, and spit us out of his mouth.” (Revelation 2:5, 16, 22, 3:16)
Why does Jesus take sin so seriously? Because he loves people like Jeremiah. (Butler)
So no, I’m not writing this post to condemn Jesus’ bad ambassadors. If you read the scriptures, you’ll see that Jesus has already spoken against them. I’m writing this post to, hopefully, make you think. Not long ago Nate and I had a conversation about pastors who use their position to enrich themselves and Nate pointed out that if they really believed Jesus’ words, they would never behave the way they do.
The greedy pastors, the pedophiles, the hypocrites: they’re like Judas.
Judas professed to be a Christian. And he wasn’t even your average Christian, Judas was in Jesus’ inner circle. By all appearances he was one of Jesus’ most faithful Christ followers. One of the top twelve. Yet Jesus calls him a “devil.” He said,
“Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. John 6:70-71
Which brings me to the point of this blog post. I’m writing this so that the next time you become offended when a bad ambassador behaves wrongly, you realize,
Jesus is with you.
These bad ambassadors, these bad Christian actors,
they betray Jesus.
Joshua Ryan Butler, The Skeletons in God’s Closet, Thomas Nelson, 2014
Image via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain