Since I last wrote I’ve been reminded that many of you have been badly burned by your church family.
You’ve been left out, gossiped about, misunderstood and mistreated. You’ve been called up to the front and scolded like a misbehaving child. You’ve not been forgiven or welcomed in by those who preach grace.
Your brothers didn’t defend you and your sisters didn’t have your back when you were most vulnerable. Your covenant family let you take the fall when it wasn’t all your fault. No one called when your heart was breaking.
The ones you blessed took your compassion for granted. You poured yourself out sacrificially and your offering was squandered; exploited by bad shepherds. You were considered a problem to be fixed, or worse, not considered at all.
The church has let you down and you’ve lost any joy and faith in her company. You don’t want to go it alone, of course, but where is the wisdom in joining your life to a people who you’re not sure you can fully trust? What’s the point?
I don’t know. This is a very difficult thing for many of us, myself included. But as a disciple of Jesus, I can only follow him, watch for him, learn from him, and determine to remain where he is.
And on the night that Jesus was betrayed, he ate a family meal with his twelve, and then a few hours later stood alone and in judgment by his entire covenant family.
Luke tells us that before Jesus appointed his disciples he spent all night on a mountain in prayer to God. All night. Who are my twelve, Father? Who will make your covenant family complete with me? And God gave his own son Judas.
In the recounting of these events, we are to identify with the disciples. We eat with Jesus in the upper-room but leave him when we’re scared. We follow Jesus day after day but think we deserve some profit; some gain for the effort.
And yet we are also called into the suffering of Jesus which includes every bit of ours.
The Son of Man was tempted to preserve himself. He was tempted to give Judas less forgiveness and grace. Jesus was tempted to pick his own loyal twelve and not submit to the will of his Father.
But if you follow Christ, know this: On the night Jesus was betrayed, he prayed for you. In a garden on another mountain, Jesus stayed up all night and prayed for those his Father would give to him.
“May they be one just as we are one.”
And when one of his twelve arrived with a traitor’s kiss, Jesus rose up to offer himself, a willing and sacrificial ransom, so you might be counted as part of his complete covenant family forever.
“May they be perfected in unity so that the world may know that you sent me – that you loved them as you love me.”
If you are a disciple of Jesus, this is your promise: The Father loves you as much as he loves his own son, and that any compassion, forgiveness, suffering, or sacrifice offered for love of him is never squandered or taken for granted by your Good Shepherd.
Peace to you, for your older brother Jesus considers you, prays for you, defends you, and keeps you and our Father’s growing family, the Church, even now.
*image by racelessgospel.com