It was 236 years ago yesterday that General Benedict Arnold was caught and arrested .
Unless you’re like some of the history challenged people interviewed by Jesse Watters, you know that Benedict Arnold’s name has become synonymous with the word “traitor.”
However, previous to his decision to become a turncoat, Benedict Arnold was a hero during the Revolutionary War. He was born into a well respected Connecticut family. He distinguished himself as a brave and skillful leader in various military campaigns and was given command at West Point.
However, on September 21, 1780, Benedict Arnold met with British Major John Andre to discuss handing over West Point to the British, in return for the promise of a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. The plot was foiled. Arnold was arrested. But later escaped and fled to England. The hero turned traitor returned to led British troops against his former comrades.
Historians suggest Arnold’s treason was not just about money. It is suggested that he had also become disillusioned with the revolutionary cause. He was also resentful that the Continental Congress promoted five junior officers ahead of him. He was suspicious that fellow soldiers such as Ethan Allen and Horatio Gates had tried to smear his reputation and take credit for his successes on the battlefield. And some historians have also argued that Arnold’s actions were influenced by his second wife, Peggy Shippen, a young belle who came from one of Philadelphia’s most prominent loyalist families.
As I read about this historical event, it seems Arnold’s treason was fueled by many factors–greed, doubt, suspicion, resentment, pride, family influences. The very same attitudes can also affect our downfall spiritually.
The Bible warns that it is possible to have been a faithful Christian, but turn away from Christ, commit spiritual treason and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4).
The Bible character Demas comes to mind. He was once a “fellow laborer” with Paul (Phile 24). He’s identified with Luke in Paul’s greeting to the Colossian brethren (Col. 4:14). But by the time Paul penned 2 Timothy 4:10 he had to report “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.”
Why did Demas commit spiritual treason? Was it the allure of riches? The seductiveness of lustful pleasure? An entanglement with worldly friends? The charm of a wife or family member?
Maybe Demas was jealous over Paul’s prominence. Or envious that he was not as highly respected. Could it have been a resentment toward Paul’s obvious familial feelings toward his “sons in the faith,” Timothy and Titus? Was Demas resentful at some perceived slight in his ministry?
We don’t know. All the Bible says is that “he loved this present world.”
Demas reminds us that it is possible to become a spiritual traditor. Just like Hymenaeus and Alexander whose faith “suffered shipwreck” (I Tim. 1:18-20). Or just like Phygellus and Hermogenes who forsook Paul when he needed them the most following his arrest(2 Tim. 1:16).
Of course, there are many unnamed traditors alluded to in the Bible. Jude speaks of those who have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 11). The apostle Peter also writes about those who “have forsaken the right way and gone astray” (2 Pet. 2:15).
The Hebrew writer warns Christians not to become discouraged, indifferent or fall prey to the besetting sin of God’s people–unbelief (Heb 3:12,19). In fact, there are constant references to the spiritual treason of ancient Israel to remind us of the possibility of apostasy. (1Cor. 10:1-13).
Of course, we’re familiar with the apostle Judas Iscariot who turned traitor and sold Jesus to the enemy for 30 pieces of silver. Why? Was it greed? Disillusionment? Jealousy? Again, we are not sure. But the Bible says that Satan entered into his heart (Jn 13:2).
Regardless of your congregational affiliation, family background, and spiritual achievements, please be advised that no one is immune from Satan’s influence, from forsaking the Lord and committing spiritual treason.
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:13).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman