Those Who Recover and Those Who Don’t
So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” John 18:25
Modern medicine sees addiction as a chronic disease marked by repeated episodes of sobriety and relapse. I rejected this when I learned it in my first attempt at treatment. I was going to get sober and stay sober. I left treatment that first time believing that I was fixed, and so, I didn’t need to work on my recovery.
Subsequently, I experienced multiple relapses and returned to treatment two more times. My first two trips led to relapse, but now since the third, I’ve been sober for almost six years. What was the difference? Was that third treatment so much better than the other two? Several of the guys who went to that same treatment relapsed shortly after getting out. Why did I remain in recovery and they did not?
The failures of Judas and Peter give me some insight into the difference between those who change and those who don’t. Today’s passage describes how Peter followed his own nature to save himself, denying three times that he knew Jesus. Judas also followed his own nature, betraying Jesus. Both Judas and Peter failed Christ, but one failure led to suicide and the other led to forgiveness and restoration. What was the difference?
I could point out that Judas’ actions were premeditated, and that Peter’s were simply impulsive. I could point out that Judas had already been stealing from the disciple’s money bag, whereas Peter had truly been trying to follow Christ. Those things are true, and perhaps predictive, but the biggest difference between Judas and Peter was in their response to their failure.
Both expressed remorse. Judas returned his blood money and Peter wept. Judas though, was overthrown by his guilt, allowing it to destroy him instead of driving him to repentance. Peter however, turned his life back to Jesus with reckless abandon, finding forgiveness and transformation. In the end, Judas life remained pointed at himself while Peter’s was pointed at God.
That has been all the difference for me. In my third treatment, in desperation, I finally told God that I would do whatever it took to follow him. He asked that I daily make an effort to abandon my way to pursue him. I don’t do it perfectly, but that’s what I attempt to do now. Daily pointing my life at God has been all the difference for me between repeated failure and recovery.