In the story of Jesus we read about two men who turned their backs on Jesus. There was no essential difference between the actions of Peter and Judas. Both betrayed Jesus, one by refusing to acknowledge his association with the Rabbi, and the other by revealing Jesus’ whereabouts. Peter was wracked with guilt, “wept bitterly,” and eventually became the leader of the early church. Judas was “seized with remorse” and shame, returned his “blood money,” then “hanged himself” (see Matthew 26.75; 27.3-5). The real difference between these two disciples lies in the distinction between guilt and shame. Peter felt guilty. Judas was filled with shame.
Failure is everyone’s story. Peter failed and Judas failed. You and I also fail, routinely. Peter sought forgiveness. Judas killed himself. Peter’s guilt led him to repentance. Judas’ shame led to self-destruction. Peter recognized his need for a Savior. Judas assumed he was beyond redemption and, like a sheep led to slaughter, cooperated with Satan’s plan for his life – permanent and total destruction. Peter found hope and redemption. Judas lost hope and was hopelessly lost.
Do we believe the lie that our betrayal of Jesus with the sin of porneia pushes us beyond the outer limits of the forgiveness He freely offers? We may understand Christ’s substitutionary atonement at an intellectual level, but has the truth of salvation seeped down into our souls? Has the light of God’s forgiveness penetrated every corner of our inner darkness? Will we, like Judas, “end up on a deathbed of regrets” (2nd Corinthians 7.11 The Message)?
Two qualities characterize a person in recovery… courage and humility. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4.6 NAS, quoting Proverbs 3.34). Like the men and women in 423 Men and 423 Women, Peter was humble and courageous. Judas, on the other hand, was a proud coward.
PRIDE: If Judas couldn’t redeem himself, then no one could, not even Jesus.
COWARDICE: Judas could not bear to face his brokenness and chose to end his life, which, of course, is the grand objective of all addictions.
Peter “broke down” and “wept bitterly” (Mark 14.72; Matthew 26.75 NIV) at the painful realization that, when his faith was on the line, he did not measure up to his promise of loyalty to Jesus. When Peter proved to himself that he was a loser, it would have been easy for him to follow the example of Judas and consider himself beyond the reach of redemption.
Peter did not quit, in spite of the intensity of the emotional pain. Instead, the fallen disciple mustered the courage to feel the depth of his depravity and gathered the humility to admit his pitiful condition. Peter’s “Godly sorrow” drove him into the arms of a loving Savior and an active community of faith.
Continuing down the road of addiction guarantees our eventual demise. Most addicts are not suicidal, but the practice of addiction is a form of slow suicide, because, after the novelty wears off, continued drug use evolves into a form of self-punishment the addict can no longer cease to inflict. He is following the path of Judas and may not even know it until it’s too late. The distinction between Judas and Peter, shame and guilt, is more subtle than the addict surmises.
Ending the cycle of shame is painful. Prepare to suffer. The spirit of porneia will not yield without a fight. Saying “no” to your sex drug hurts, but it will not kill you. Do not submit with Judas-like resignation to the pathetic path of self-destruction. Rather, surrender your will to the will of Him who alone can impart to you the grace to endure the pain and successfully “fight the good fight” (1st Timothy 1.18; 6.12 NAS).
We are not Judas. We do not give up on ourselves and, by our very inaction, paint ourselves into the ‘corner of last resort’ where taking action to end our suffering once and for all becomes the easy, and seemingly only, remedy to our pitiful predicament.
We are Peter. We willingly face and embrace emotional pain, and suffer for as long as we must, while maintaining hope for redemption. We proclaim with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13.15 NKJV). We trust Jesus. We do not give up.
Human suffering is inevitable. Redemptive suffering is a choice you make. Prepare to suffer, but suffer with hope. Trust your community of faith, and trust Him who “will make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope” (Hosea 2.15 NCV).