5 Truths About Responding to Betrayal

Betrayal is a dreadful act that can cause profound and lasting damage. It is one thing to suffer harm, but it is quite another to suffer harm from someone you trusted. When we are brought to anguish by those we considered loyal friends, the deep emotional and psychological wounds are often slow to heal.

Jesus Suffered Betrayal

Scripture teaches that Jesus suffered as we do, and so he sympathizes with us in our affliction. Most of us know that before his murder, Jesus was delivered to Jewish officials by one of his own disciples. Judas is a name synonymous with shattered trust. But we may not realize the great affection Jesus had for his wayward follower and the way he agonized over his betrayal. Even though He knew from the beginning what Judas would do (John 6:64), Jesus loved and served him until the very moment that he left. John 13 testifies the betrayal troubled Jesus in His spirit; which in the original language implies: revulsion, horror, and anxiety. Just like us, Jesus felt deep and complex emotions because of the unfaithfulness of his companion.

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
John 13:21 (ESV)

5 Truths About Responding to Betrayal as a Christian

God worked for our good, even as we sinned against Him (Romans 5:10). This is our motivation to care for those who have hurt us. Here are 5 biblical truths to help guide our response to personal betrayal:

  1. You are accountable to God for your response to those who hurt you. You have no control over what others do. But you are liable for your reaction to them. Proverbs 24:17-18 warns that rejoicing over the downfall of an enemy can invite God’s displeasure. He cares greatly about the heart of His people.
  2. God alone has the right to bring justice to sinners. This will help you understand the command of Proverbs 24 better. Practicing forgiveness is not overlooking justice, but rather placing it in God’s hands. Romans 12:18-21 teaches you to entrust vengeance to God and to overcome evil by doing good to your enemies. (We must note Romans 13, which describes civil authorities as God’s instruments of punishment against wrongdoers. Personal forgiveness does not require you to refuse to report heinous crimes).
  3. Blessing your enemy is not a sign of your weakness or of your approval. Rather, it is proof of your heritage as a child of God. Doing good to someone who has harmed you does not mean you are a push-over, nor that you are saying what they did was ok. Rather, Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:43-48 that blessing your enemy shows that you are conducting yourself in the pattern of your Heavenly Father.
  4. Unforgiveness is not protection against further harm. It will result in bitterness that will impact far more people than just your offender. Hebrews 12:14-15 warns that a root of bitterness in your heart will grow and defile many. You may feel that withholding forgiveness protects you from getting hurt again. But in reality it will only bring destruction and difficulty to you and those close to you.
  5. God will equip you to desire that which you would naturally hate and accomplish that which you would naturally find impossible. If you read the first 4 truths and feel overwhelmed, let the Gospel comfort you. Through Christ, God promises to equip you with everything needed to do His will. His Spirit will work in you that which is pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:20-21). Whatever is required by God, is provided in Christ. And that includes the desire and ability to forgive and love your betrayer.

Taking the Next Steps

Working through the pain of betrayal is often a long journey, but one that cannot end until it begins. So let me encourage you with these first steps: Confess to God your current mental and emotional state toward your offender. Agree with God on what His word teaches about where you need to be. Rely on the power of Christ to help you walk out love and forgiveness. And seek counsel from a pastor or wise godly friend who can help you with practical actions toward this end.

What Did Christ Save Us From?

Words matter, especially when it comes to the biblical responsibility of teaching. Those who lead do not have liberty to be careless or vague with their expressions. The word of God understood rightly is life to our soul (Proverbs 3:22), so there is much riding on the faithful exercise of preaching (2 Timothy 2:15).

Those realities have led me to this post. This past Sunday I taught a message from John 13 and used an illustration intended to point listeners to the seriousness of sin and the kindness of God in salvation. And while still agreeing with my premise, I had the overwhelming feeling Sunday evening that I had failed in clarity and precision.

Here is a summary of what I said:

“There is a well-known sign on Interstate 65N in Alabama that says: ‘Go to church or the devil will get you’. The sign indicates the problem is the devil and the solution is go to church. But consider first that you can go to church every single day of your life and still die apart from Christ having never been redeemed. And second, that the biggest threat to your soul is not the devil. Rather the sign should say ‘Flee to Christ or suffer the wrath of God’. What we are being saved from is not the devil. The devil is an enemy – yes. But the cross was to save us from the punishment for our sins. That punishment comes not from the devil, but rather from God. On the cross Jesus became the recipient of God’s wrath against rebellion. God the Father abandoned God the son, as he made him – in that moment – responsible for our sin.” 
– from The Jesus Series #50, Authority to Serve

My main purpose was not to ridicule the sign or those who put it up, but to get us to think about the nature of salvation. Christianity is not best understood through pithy sayings, but by deeply and thoroughly examining eternal truths. The issue is that in my own explanation regarding the work of Christ on the cross, I failed to paint a full picture of what endangers us.

Did Christ Save Us from the Devil?

My statement “What we are being saved from is not the devil” certainly needs further clarification. Indeed, Christ did save us from the work of Satan. Consider these passages: 

  • Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning since the beginning. But the son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 (ESV)
  • Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. – Hebrews 2:14-15 (CSB)

The devil is the author of rebellion against God. In Genesis 3 he incites man to follow his practice of sin, the result of which is death (Romans 6:23). The devil then seeks to exploit the fallen nature of man to bring them to his will rather than God’s so that they are destroyed (2 Timothy 2:26) and thus he holds over them the power of death. But Jesus has come to destroy the devil’s work. Christ shared in our humanity, yet never sinned. While perfect, He submitted to suffering the consequence of our immorality through death on a cross. And He triumphed over the grave in resurrection, demonstrating that He has authority over both sin and its effects. By grace Jesus credits his perfect obedience to those who through faith sincerely seek his saving work. And He has granted us a spirit that loves God and finds joy in being led by him (Romans 8:15). So yes, our hope is the continual power of Christ to save us from the devil (Ephesians 6:11) which is why the kingdom of darkness battles to keep people from hearing and believing the message about Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The Importance of Understanding God’s Wrath

The original reason I chose to use this illustration is that many who acknowledge spiritual realities believe their greatest threat is the devil. And indeed, motivated by hatred for God the devil aims to bring to destruction all that He can. We ignore this at our own peril ( 1 Peter 5:8). But the devil does not administer justice and does not have the authority to sentence people to everlasting death. It is God who is the judge of the whole earth (Genesis 18:25); who pours his wrath out on the wicked (Romans 2:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:12). Jesus taught that it was wisdom to fear God as the only one who could cast a person into hell (Luke 12:5).

Many believers find it uncomfortable to talk about God’s wrath. We are tempted to conform to the world which has remade God in an image it can tolerate. With dwindling exceptions, mankind longs to conduct their lives as they choose without any thought of repercussions. Love in our culture increasingly means never saying someone is wrong. And so many have created an image of God that agrees with what they can accept: A God who would never judge anyone. The world cannot comprehend or accept a deity enthroned in glory who exercises judgement while maintaining unending, steadfast love. And most will never try. Mankind would rather reject any thought of divine punishment than accept responsibility for their own wrongdoing.

God’s Love for Rebels

I absolutely agree that those who follow Jesus should participate in a church that proclaims, relies on, and adheres to the Gospel. There is no picture of Christianity in the New Testament that does not include active participation in a community of faith. Furthermore, we are called to resist the devil in the power of God and the church is an integral part of God’s plan in this resistance. So, yes: Go to church and resist the devil. But remember that it is deadly dangerous to ignore the greatest threat to our souls, which is to fall under judgement for our sin. God is love, but His love is not exercised in allowing his creation to wander off in rebellion, living with themselves at the center of the universe. Rather He demonstrates his love by His willingness to put upon His own son the death due rebels, and subsequently share His own riches and honor with the ones who receive this gift of redemption.

The Throne of Grace: A Meditation on Hebrews 4:16

In a recent post we considered the value of scripture meditation. One goal of meditation is to slow down and prayerfully consider key words in order to draw out riches from the text. Let’s try this together in Hebrews 4, with a focus on verse 16:

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (ESV)

  • With confidence draw near: Come with boldness, openly; Come without hesitation, doubts, or fears. God is calling us to the privilege of a personal relationship. He is calling us to come without pretense or hiding, yet with absolute assurance that He will receive us.
  • Throne of grace: First, we are approaching a throne: God is a holy, sovereign King. We are not His equal. He is our almighty creator who has all power and dominion. Secondly, the throne is described as being of the essence of grace: God is benevolent and loving. He does not treat us as we deserve. He grants favor, approval, and provision.
  • That we may receive: To take in hand. He is calling us to come expectantly; without fear of rejection or leaving His presence empty handed.
  • Mercy to help: Benefits that result from compassion. God does not just pity us and send us on our way. From his great compassion we will receive assistance, divine aid, relief and safety.
  • In time of need: Literally in season or timely. The verse is not simply calling us to run to God when in affliction (although certainly we should). But here is a call to continually draw near to God and He will ensure you lack nothing; you will have all that you need, often before you realize you need it.

I was encouraged by one of our church members who shared how they were walking through feelings of condemnation over a recent struggle. Yet God used this passage to remind them that He understood their battle and that they did not have to be afraid to seek Him in the midst of their discouragement; that in His presence they would not find further condemnation, but rather the help they needed.

Of course the foundation of these precious promises is the active, ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ as our advocate. Verses 14-15 teach us that we can only take hold of the hope in verse 16 if Christ has first taken hold of us. As John Gill once wrote:

To Christ the saints come for pardon and cleansing, for a justifying righteousness, for the acceptance of their persons, the presentation of their services, and for every supply of grace. From Him they may expect to receive mercy, since it is kept with him and is only dispensed through him.

So will you and I take God at his word and flee to Christ – through practices like worship, prayer, community, and scripture meditation – that we may boldly draw near to His throne and find the help we all so desperately need?

Delighting in God through Scripture Meditation

The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fires of meditation – Thomas Watson (Puritan preacher and author, 1620-1686)

If you were honest, how would you describe your time in God’s word? A drudgery or a delight? A chore or a gift? The reality is many Christians find reading God’s word to be more of a duty than a relief. While knowing it is beneficial, we often relate to it as a necessity for spiritual growth rather than a gift of grace.

Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2-3 (CSB)

1Peter 2:2-3 instructs us to take in God’s word, but not as a religious burden. Peter teaches that we should desire God’s word as a baby desires milk: earnestly, longingly, affectionately. And this will be possible, he says, if we have known the kindness of God through personal experience. This last statement is very helpful. While it’s possible for us to naturally grasp the benefits of Bible intake, we can not generate affection for God or His word in our hearts. Delight in God, is a gift from God.

This does not mean that we are without responsibility. Delight is NOT a passively acquired trait, which we receive apart from a habit of consistent reading. Rather as we travel paths ordained by God, in anticipation of meeting with Him, the gift of delight grows in us. One of those well traveled paths throughout church history is scripture meditation.

Meditation is modeled throughout the Bible (see Joshua 1:8, Psalm 143:5, Philippians 4:8) and is far different from the customs of eastern religions. Those practices aim to clear ones mind in order to find inner peace. On the contrary, Christian meditation is about filling your mind with God’s word, so that you might know Christ more deeply. Meditation in the Old Testament means to mutter or to muse; the implication is that we linger over the Bible through thoughtful deliberation and speak it to ourself.

So how do we meditate? The following steps are not a divinely inspired formula. But they are means adapted from Biblical principles and taught by many historical church sources:

  • Read a short passage multiple times and speak it loud enough for your ears to hear it. Emphasize different words and note the surrounding context.
  • Write the passage out. Define key phrases and consider their negative (or opposite state). Jot down questions or thoughts and rewrite the passage in your own words.
  • Memorize and sing the passage. Meditation can infer melody, as in Psalm 19:14. Use these tools to recall the passage throughout the day.
  • Pray the passage, through praises and requests. Seek personal application and pray it for others that come to mind. Consider texting them so that they know you are praying.

If you are trying scripture meditation for the first time, we would love to hear how it is going. Feel free to email us at info@agapepinson.com