December 18, 2009

A Biblical Reaction to Betrayal

It hits you like a sledge-hammer and it can be so heart-wrenching! Family and friends that you trust and love - people for whom you would do anything within your ability financially, physically, spiritually - these same people that you thought would do the same for you, suddenly, without any warning, notion or premonition betray you. Trust is broken. And you discover that perhaps, all along, you have been deceived into believing that these people loved you and truly cared about you, only to find out the opposite: they hate you. You would have never considered them your enemies and now you begin to understand that they have made you one of theirs. Perhaps you had been all along.

I don't know what's more devastating: the betrayal itself, how suddenly it seems to come from no where, the deception of love or the consequences of whatever hateful actions/words are taken. In addition to this there may be financial obligations should such people take legal action against you. Betrayal can occur on so many levels.

For believers in Christ, betrayal hits us deeply. Whereas non-Christians may seek revenge after mourning the broken relationship and respond in hatred and bitterness, seeking revenge. Believers are called to love our enemies, pray for them and bless them. We need to run to God's Word for encouragement and instruction during this difficult time which leads so easily to honest prayer time. We can pray for the salvation of the betrayers if they are not believers, and conviction from the Holy Spirit and repentance if they are. For ourselves, we can pray for wisdom to handle the situation with grace, righteousness and justice, seeking from God the right course of action. We can also pray for the healing of our hearts as the love and trust has been broken, that we might not turn to hatred and bitterness.

We are called to live peaceably with all people, so much as it depends on us and not to repay evil for evil. We are reminded of passages that tell us that vindication belongs to the Lord and the grace to patiently trust Him for whenever that vindication comes, whether or not we are present to see it. We must trust that God is the righteous Judge and He will defend the cause of the weak and oppressed.

In some cases, it may be appropriate to take legal action against individuals who committed a wrong against you, if they are unbelievers. Perhaps some of these should be handled on a case-by-case basis using the Word of God as a guide for when this should be done and when it should be handled within the context of church government. But whatever action we take, we must always trust in the final authority of God as Judge, trusting in His timing and perfect justice.

And lastly but definitely not least we should look to Jesus example when He was betrayed. His circumstances were much different: He chose and knew who would betray Him, when and why, and He was in complete control the entire time. In this we can trust in God's sovereignty and remember that He has our best interest at heart - sanctification which leads to greater and greater holiness.

When Christ was betrayed, He restrained Himself and did not retaliate and seek His own vengeance. He waited patiently and trusted His retribution to come from God the Father in perfect timing. He submitted to God's will and kept it in view and knew the ultimate victory that would occur to the Father's glory. He knew that God's justice would prevail in the end.

Christ understood the real Enemy. From Adam, Satan had deceived the hearts of men and women, keeping them captive to a dead, sinful nature. He prayed for His enemies and still, in the moment of betrayal, called Judas, "Friend." Previous to this, He spoke in love truthfully and warned about the imminent judgment of his motives and actions, desiring their repentance.

Christ cried out to God the Father and He didn't put on a mask.

The betrayal Christ experienced is the worst that could ever be experienced by any person. When we are betrayed, we could still find some fault for which we must take responsibility. We have not behaved perfectly toward everyone that has ever come across our path. We are not infallible. But Christ was the sinless Son of God in whom is perfect righteousness, holiness, love, justice and truth. By His atoning sacrifice, which would not have occurred apart from God's will without the betrayal by Judas, our filthy-rags human righteousness is exchanged for true divine, Law-fulfilling righteousness by grace through faith. His grace is sufficient for us to accept the sovereignty of God by which the betrayal has occurred and to heal from it.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2::5-11

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