Photo: moviedb.org – Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, the spy who takes on one more mission in East Germany, only to discover layer upon layer of deception, and his own betrayal (‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ by John le Carre), a story often used, and most recently in Atomic Blonde (from the graphic novel ‘The Coldest City’).
We’ve all tasted betrayal.
Betrayal is an auspicious topic for Good Friday. Today recognises the crucifixion of Jesus. One particular detail in the story, is the cold and public betrayal by his disciple Judas. Judas is dazzled by money, he’d been stealing from the communal purse and now he was enamoured with the thirty pieces of silver he was offered to publicly identify Jesus to an arrest party. As the story goes, Judas leads a party of soldiers and police to where Jesus is, and identifies Jesus by greeting and kissing him. Essentially the kiss of death for a man he professed to follow.
There are many classic stories of betrayal. The Song of the Niebulungs which tells of the betrayal of the dragon slayer Siegfried. Odin was considered by the Norse to be the god of frenzy and betrayal. Euripides’ famous story of how Jason abandons his wife Medea for a younger woman is chilling, it ends badly.
Modern stories abound. Anything by Graham Greene, but especially ‘The End of the Affair’, and classic spy stories are essentially betrayal stories especially as written by John le Carre.
The stories of betrayal, whether true or fiction, actually bear out the popular saying: “The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies, it comes from your friends and loved ones.” That’s why it hurts so much. Siegfried’s wife takes revenge, Medea kills the children, Alec Leamas chooses death even when he is able to reach freedom. We’re not told what Jesus thinks about betrayal, but he is consistent with his teaching about forgiveness and love, he refuses to stoop to the level of those who whip and kill him.
But for us mere mortals there is a piece of very sound advice to heed: “If someone betrays you once, it’s their fault; if they betray you twice, it’s your fault.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) Clearly boundaries matter. But even then …
I find myself drawn to what Jesus lived and taught – that forgiveness (properly understood) is life giving.