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Open Your Heart to God's Reconciling Grace

August, 2001

How many times have you felt betrayed by another person, by society, by yourself? When did you last ask, "Where do I stand? Where does anyone stand?" Can the darkness of betrayal become a corridor of understanding communion with Jesus Christ?

Few actions do more to provoke anger and to violate established, bonded relationships of trust than betrayal. Anotherís failure to protect, comfort, and nourish can lead us to feel more comfortable in relationships where our God-given desires become ignored or shamed. We seek more mechanical and emotionally detached relationships out of suspicion of those truly kind, gentle, and loving. We perceive the detached, exploitative, and selfish person as true. We have taken the bait and swallowed the lie.

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." (1 Peter 5.9, 10)

We need to connect various aspects of reality without fear or condemnation. Violation of trust causes suspicion of all caregivers, resulting in a withdrawal from growth. Yet we have all been lied to in a way that feels humiliating, defiled by someone we trusted and loved. We have had gossips betray a confidence. We have all belittled ourselves for poor choices. We know the feelings: disappointment, sadness, shame, denial, anger, emotional and social lethargy, fear of self and the decision-making skills we possess, a sense that we donít deserve to eat, to live. We fear we will never feel whole again. Indeed, we suffer a psychic implosion, primal emotions from the core of our being.

Betrayal. The word comes from an old French verb that means to hand over or deliver up. Dictionaries define it as treachery; the disappointment of oneís hopes and expectations; to reveal, disclose, show, or exhibit; to expose treacherously; to violate a secret or confidence; to be disloyal; to break a promise; to reveal oneís true character or intentions; to lead astray; to deceive; to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; to mislead.

We wouldnít feel betrayed if we hadnít made a commitment, maybe even entered into a covenant relationship. So why does God allow these times of a wrenching violation of our faith in another?

Betrayal can be used by God if we are willing to see things differently, to change our focus and deepen our connection to Him. Feelings of betrayal reveal unrealistic and unspoken expectations, vain imaginations. We think that though someone lies to another, they wonít lie to us; though they were unfaithful before, it will be different this time; though they gossip about other people, they will keep our secrets.

If we expect people to betray our trust, we tend to choose to trust people who arenít trustworthy. If we base our happiness on another person or church or social group, we eventually feel let down or betrayed. If what we want from a person or situation differs from what is delivered or negotiated, we feel betrayed.

Betrayal causes us ultimately to deal with expectations. After the emotions are cleared out, we can explore our desires, stated commitments versus actions, and begin to experience life as it is. We come to focus our attention on what we can changeóourselves and our choices. Thus begins the restoration of the soul.

We can learn a lot from Jesusí betrayal. Jesus suffered the pain of rejection, not just from those who should have received Him, or from the crowds with hands outstretched and mouths wide open to be fed and nurtured by His healing touch, but by His own disciples. It is a disciple who joins with the enemies of Jesus to betray Him into the hands of sinners. It is Satan who enters Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who plots betrayal and receives money for handing Jesus over. (Luke 22.1-6)

Judas had seen the miracles, heard the teachings, been privileged to be a part of Jesusí ministry some three years. He was no stranger to Jesus (Matthew 10.2-4; John 13.1; Psalm 41.9), but "a familiar friend." What led Judas to compromise his faith, to reject the overtures of mercy and grace? How could betrayal take place when he was there, arguing with the rest about who was the greatest and having his feet washed in a simple act of service by One who demonstrated true greatness? He shared part of that last meal, sitting so close to Jesus that Jesus handed him the morsel of bread, an action of honor and love.

Jesus did not live with faulty expectations. He lived according to truth. He knew He would be betrayed and by whom. No one else got it. Judas was the trusted treasurer. When Jesus told him to go do what he had to do quickly, the others thought he was off to make a gift to the poor. But betrayal begins on the inside. And betrayal responds to the love and goodness of God with a stubborn heart. The choice to betray Jesus had already been made.

Money was a problem for Judas (John 12.4-6). He was on the take. The deceitfulness of riches can render us unfruitful.(Matthew 13.22; 1 Timothy 6.9, 10; Rev. 3.15, 17) Maybe Judas didnít think Jesus would be condemned. Maybe he thought to force Jesusí hand in a political upheaval. Maybe he thought he could improve on Godís way. Maybe he thought his scheme was better than Godís plan. Whatever, the deal had been closed.

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Matthew 26.48, 49). Jesus questioned the display of affection, for certainly it did not mean loyalty on his part. We are to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22.37, 38), but our emotions must come from faith. Faith does not come from our emotions. Faith comes from the Word of God (Romans 10.17; John 20.30, 31).

Jesus experienced life as it is. "Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes My betrayer." He saw through the display of affection. He knew that the sword is not the answer. He knew that even the other disciples would disown Him in a display of cowardice and fear. He didnít trust the great swelling words of promises (John 13.36-38). Jesus deals with truth.

Judas exchanged Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus knew that the scriptures would be fulfilled, scripture that included betrayal. Satan used Judas to betray Jesus (Luke 22.3, 4; John 13.2; John 6.70, 71). Perhaps Satan gained entry through Judasí love of money, through the self-betrayal of feigned affection, through false expectations of the Christ, through zeal lacking wisdom. Whatever the reason, Judas reacted to his sin the wrong way. Sin leads to death, but we cannot atone for our own sin.

Judas, overcome with grief and remorse, brought back the money to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." He hanged himself. (Matthew 27.3-6)

2 Corinthians 7.10 speaks of two kinds of sorrow. The sorrow of the world produces death. It is a sorrow preoccupied with self. Godly sorrow produces repentance. God grants this repentance unto life, as with Peter, who wept bitterly and was restored. Peter, you remember, was tested after his great swelling words of loyalty. Satan would sift him like wheat, but Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith fail not. Jesus proclaimed the prophetic word of Peterís destiny, that he would turn back and go strengthen his brothers. (Luke 22)

Betrayal reveals the depravity of the soul. It is the ultimate test of the heart. With the psychic implosion of betrayal, Judasí faith failed. Peter was kept by the power of God. Peterís denial was forgiven, for Jesus could not deny Himself.

On the same night that Jesus was betrayed, He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it. Likewise, He took the cup, the new covenant in His blood. Within our understanding of the elements of communion, we find healing and recovery from acts of betrayal.

We are to remember and proclaim the Lordís death until He comes. His death demonstrates His love and faithfulness to us. In Psalm 89.33 God affirmed to David, "But I will not take My love from him nor will I ever betray My faithfulness." God affirms that He cannot betray Himself. He is faithful. He keeps His Word. That Word led Jesus to hang in agony of the cross of Calvary and cry, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Forgiving is not natural. It is a commitment to release, to hurl away, to set free. Forgiveness frees us from the prisons we keep ourselves in. Forgiveness frees others from the prison we have placed them in.

The cross of Christ enables us to find empowerment in the Spirit of God to live anchored in community with one another. Betrayal and community, serving one another in love, being kind and tender-hearted, forgiving one another as Christ forgave usóthis is life in Christ as it is. Betrayal hurts so deeply because we have opened ourselves up so vulnerably. At the Table we come in collective need of grace. We come to be nourished. We come seeking the protection of the Blood of Christ, His provision and His pity.

When we want so much but find ourselves wondering what is real, when we are shaken with spiritual and emotional uncertainty, when we find ourselves overcome with revulsion and just want to be clean, when we want union with God and His people but just run in fear, Jesus sets before us His Body and His Blood, Life as it is. When we are lost in the darkness, confused and spiritually numb, when we want the Holy Spirit without suffering, when we decry ourselves for exaggerated gestures of love for Jesus, He is standing faithful, in whole-hearted commitment. Jesus saves.

Why do we experience betrayal? In it we identify with Christ. We know the pain of being handed over to sinners, the pain of falling prey to the devices of Satan. We learn that the one who trusts in man is a fool. We find God trustworthy, true to His Word. We feel the pain of rejection that we might bask in the acceptance of Godís countenance. With all else broken, we discover that trust lives first in relationship with God, who is faithful.

Can you open your heart to Godís reconciling grace? Will you receive Him, His love and compassion? Will you take your wounds and join them with His?

Preparing the Bride for the Bridegroom,

Mary Craig

And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, And shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24.10-14)


© 2001 Mary Craig Ministries, Inc.


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