Life is full of disappointments: failures, betrayal, and loss. The wounds we endure can transform us to be better, or bitter.
In John 6:64-71, we get a bird’s eye view of the real Judas Iscariot, the name we so often connect to ultimate betrayal, greed, and regret. In my ministry, three times I’ve dealt with a ‘Judas’ who came very close to destroying the churches I served, and me. Three times, I approached the Lord asking how to handle them. I couldn’t run from them and the communities where God called me to serve. I knew, as a minister, I had to assume a certain level of vulnerability. I prayed and listened, and God answered me with a few essential truths about how to deal with a Judas.
1. Recognize the four characteristics of a Judas.
- They have a semblance of spirituality, until they become known. They say and do all the “right” things. This is how they gain trust and enter the inner circles of leadership.
- They are practical. Their suggestions will not seem underhanded. They make comments to subtly undermine leadership. Take for example Judas’ comment in Mark 14 about the alabaster container of oil poured on Jesus’ feet: “’For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denari and given to the poor.’ And they criticized her sharply.” It was an inappropriate comment in the context of Jesus, the Son of God’s, anointing for burial.
- They are thieves. They can steal the affections of others, a position of influence, and of course, financially.
- They are deceivers. They can deceive spiritual people as well as naïve ones. The disciples who walked with Jesus for three years were fooled by Judas. Only Jesus knew Judas for who he really was.
2. A Judas will become known as such when you rebuke him.
A Judas can’t and won’t receive correction. They will be right, despite the cost to the organization, common sense, and spiritual authority.
3. Shockingly, you will not have to remove a Judas.
His actions will do it for them as people begin to see who they really are. I saw this happen to a board member in our church. I never had to ask for his resignation; the official Board asked for it, without any prompting from me. In such instances, remember neither your organization nor you has failed. As ministers, we want to rehabilitate and restore people, but even Jesus, after giving Judas many opportunities, couldn’t restore him.
4. Do not make a martyr out of a Judas.
Act with patience, else you create a martyrdom legacy for him. Listen to the counsel of people you trust, and know when and how to proceed as led by the Spirit.
5. Never let a Judas determine policy!
You will need to muster ever ounce of your spiritual, emotional, and physical stamina to stand up to their often-bullying personalities.
6. A Judas will always hang himself.
The Judas who was made to resign by the Board had previously written a letter to his fellow board members that led to their coming together to ask for his resignation. As a side note, understand that a person does not become a Judas within your ministry. They are usually good people with unresolved past character issues. When these issues are eventually confronted, they become a huge problem for the ministry, eventually disqualifying themselves from leadership.
7. Your attitude will determine a Judas’ influence in your organization.
Understanding this is critical. When seeking to deal with a Judas character, I asked two trusted board members to evaluate my messages each week from the pulpit to identify any bitterness or sarcasm in my attitude toward the situation. Each week, the Judas character and family also listened with a critical ear, making faces of consternation and disagreement as I spoke. It was a challenge to love these people like never before. Had I not asked for accountability, my attitude could have easily soured. Eventually, the antagonists gave up their criticisms and left the church.
The above truths have led our leadership teams to develop serving and hiring policies regarding elected officials of the church and their close relatives. We wanted to close any doors that remained open to protect the community from any future Judas characters.
Whether you are facing your Judas today or in your yesterdays, we know the pain and heartache involved. Be encouraged for you will overcome your hurt, regain your trust of people, and continue to lead and disciple in accordance with Biblical models. Keep in mind that soon after experiencing the pain of Judas Iscariot, the church experienced the resurrection of Christ, the outpouring of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and amazing growth. We experienced a 400-person increase shortly following our Judas experience, and God has continued to bless the community. A Judas is hell’s last-ditch attempt to destroy, or at the least postpone, the destiny of God on your church or ministry. When a Judas appears, there will be a cross to bear, but also a glorious resurrection and outpouring of God’s Spirit.