Here is a link to the lectionary reading for today, John 13:21-32
Today’s scripture bothered me. I didn’t want to focus too much on Satan, betrayal and over explaining this. However, since, I’m not alone in my study of scripture, I turn again to commentators. Francis Moloney suggests that the thing we should look toward is Jesus’ actions in toward Judas even though he knows he will betray him.
This is still complicated, but more interesting than Satan. There are times we need to not be at the table of those who would do us harm. I’ve learned this from people far more vulnerable than myself. But, here, I want to explore something different, particularly as this scripture is sandwiched between acts of love (we get those tomorrow).
Jesus dips the bread into the cup and offers it to Judas who takes it. Judas will still betray him, but Jesus offers him love. I want to step out of cosmic betrayal, betrayal that would murder, betrayal for silver. Instead, let’s look at the disciples as a whole. At different times they betray Jesus. They abandon him in his need, sleep through his time of prayer, doubt the power of his resurrection, and more. Yet, he still offers them love.
This leads me to thinking about the rural church and morality. Jennifer Sherman explores the reality of rural working class communities dealing with loss of industry (in her case, logging) and how different community members were judged based on whether they worked, commuted, left, or relied on government benefits. I don’t want to compare Judas to people who lost their jobs in a complicated environmental decision (they logging stopped because of and endangered species). Instead, I want talk about Jesus who offers love even though the love may be misused, ignored, or betrayed.
Often I see rural churches and agencies want to only give to the “right” people who “really need it” and place judgments on people who do not seem like the “deserving” type. They often feel like people are mistreating the system and benefiting from it. This regularly stems from and leads to racist and classist assumption. Piles of forms, background checks, and suspicious looks create the sense that the love of the church is conditional. If we want to talk about evil and Satan this week, this is where Satan might be. Evil sits in the judgement; the refusal to love; and the racist, classist, and other oppressive forces that often pervade the church.
Instead, what can Christ teach us in the offering of a morsel of bread? Who would we refuse to love? Who would the rural church refuse to love in their own community?
***NOTE: I am not, nor will I ever use this scripture or others about unconditional love to condone abuse, oppression, violence, and other acts of harm.***