Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sabbath Reflections: The Traitor and the Betrayed

I’ve been the Force/narrator in several games of Star Wars Mafia. This puts me on the outside looking in, which provides a great opportunity to psychoanalyze people. (Yeah, it happens. Don’t play a game with me if you don’t want your brain picked and turned into a blog post.)

Often, there comes a point in the game where two people are claiming to be the exact same character. One is telling the truth. One is lying. And they both know who the other person is.

Over time, I noticed something that all of the honest parties had in common, guys or girls. There is one way you can spot the person who’s telling the truth.

Look for betrayal.

That’s it. That’s the big difference. The liar can get mad or be logical or make pleading claims just as convincingly as the person telling the truth. But only the honest one looks at the other with betrayal in their eyes.

I am most often the liar, as anyone who has played with me has figured out. Even though I know it’s only a game, sometimes the look on the other person’s face just cuts into me. I am turning people against them, not just by claiming to be something I’m not, but by claiming to be something they are. It’s hard to do, especially if they trusted me before that moment or if people begin to believe me instead of them.

If you’re a writer, the main application I want to make from this is that betrayal can be difficult to describe in a way that feels real, but if you can pull it off, it will give your story a depth that very few stories have.

But if you’re a person in addition to being a writer, or a person who isn’t a writer, there’s a little more I want to say about betrayal, and not the light, trivial, card-game kind.

It’s especially appropriate to consider this topic right after Good Friday. I think Judas’s betrayal no longer shocks us because we see it coming (probably true for most of the passion story, actually). We tend to think that in light of all the agony Jesus went through on the cross, Judas’s betrayal wasn’t a big deal, anyway.

Think about that for a minute. Sure, it wasn’t unexpected. Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. But to say that it didn’t hurt minimizes what it feels like to see someone you love reject everything that is good and true, spitting in the face of all the time you’ve invested in a close relationship with him. Judas betrayed Jesus, and with that act, he turned his back on so much more.

To really appreciate the force of Judas’s betrayal, you have to believe that Jesus loved him.

Not just that He put up with him tagging along with the other disciples so that God’s will would be done. Not just that He forgave him because He’s perfect and that’s what He had to do.

Jesus loved Judas. And Judas rejected that.

Sure, it’s easy to put shame and blame on Judas, and even Peter with his wimpy who-me?-I-never-knew-the-guy protests, a more mild betrayal. But do you feel that sick feeling? Have you seen that piercing look in someone’s eyes when he knows you’ve turned against him? When you sing the line “Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers,” do you wince because you know it’s true?

Do you know what it’s like to be Edmund?

Sometimes, when I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I see myself as Lucy, with child-like faith and a persistent hope that, one day, I’ll walk through my closet to a place where everything is more real and meaningful. And sometimes (but not as often) I have Susan’s practicality or Peter’s bravery.

But, mostly, I am Edmund.

I’m a mess of paradoxes. I hate traitors. I am a traitor. In theory, I love the truth. In practice, I love lies. I can’t imagine how anyone could betray someone they love. I do it every day. When I think about how serious my sin is—which I don’t very often—I am ashamed of the fact that, mostly, I see myself as a good person.

I am not good.

Tomorrow, Easter is coming. The resurrection brings hope. Sunday is the redemption for traitors, the happy ending for all the Edmunds of the world.

But I don’t think we dwell on Saturday long enough. We instinctively rush toward the light of Easter.

Right now, I want to ask you to do something that’s counter-cultural and counter-intuitive: remain with me in darkness for a little while, because the darkness tells us something about ourselves, something deep and painful, but something that we need to acknowledge.

We are not good.

Dwelling on Saturday does two main things: it destroys pride, because we see ourselves as we really are, instead of justifying or minimizing our sin. And it makes the joy of Easter more real, because good people don’t need a Savior. Traitors and liars and rebels do.

There are times for happiness and joy. Those are beautiful emotions. But they’re also easy. Maybe Good Friday shouldn’t be so easy.

It was my sin that held Him there. I am the very thing I hate. I am not good.

He died for me.


  1. Thank you. Thank you for putting into words the very things that have been hurting and torturing me this past week. We are the sinners everyday, the hypocrites, the liars, the betrayers. We are the ones that put Christ on that Cross. But we are also the very reason that he came and he stayed on that cross. Even when we try to be good, or at least not bad, we still fall short, so he brought grace. That darkness inside of me is what has made me cry so much this past week, but thank you for also reminding me that there is the hope He brings. It was an awesome blog.

    1. Beautifully put. Thank you, and happy Easter.

  2. Hey, don't feel bad. I psychoanalyze people during games too. So does Obi-Wan... you want proof? Read "Wild Space." :-P
    I love your way of thinking! After reading the Narnia books several times, Eustace and Edmund became my favorite characters. Ultimately, their weaknesses only made them stronger--besides, Eustace was hilariously absent-minded at times in "The Last Battle." It was adorable.