In the 10 years since I sold my business to live a life as a Christ follower, I have seen several instances where trusted friends and colleagues have turned away. For some, that meant saying yes when subsequent behavior really said no, and for others it was outright betrayal. This may be the bitter fruit of the Christian walk. I found that these moments bring with them great disappointment and pain. As we live out the life of faith, there will come a time when we face betrayal. We will experience what Jesus experienced, when trusted friends betray us in a “Judas moment.” How will we respond to betrayal?
There are many examples of betrayal in scripture. In his letters, Paul is constantly pointing to leaders who have turned against him and led people to a false gospel. In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul even confronts Peter for turning away from salvation by faith alone:
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I say that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Jesus cautioned us to expect to be rejected by friends and family when we take His path. It is an expected part of the journey. A few months ago, I was discussing betrayal with my spiritual director. He asked me, “How did Jesus respond to betrayal?” I was a bit stumped and did not immediately come up with an answer. “He washed Judas’ feet,” he explained. Take a look at John 13: 2-5:
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Before he washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus already knew of Judas’ betrayal, yet he went ahead with this act of humble service, even to the one who was sending Him to his death. The juxtaposition of the two statements makes that clear to my untrained mind.
I don’t know about you, but my reaction is nothing like that. When I’ve experienced betrayal, I tend to go into a funk. I grow discouraged. I slow to a snail’s pace in my work and life. Several times, it has prompted months in the spiritual desert, experiencing the dark night of the soul. Getting turned back in the right direction is quite a process. I saw a bumper sticker at Exponential Conference a couple of years ago. It said this:
Discouragement is the Kryptonite of Church Planting
As soon as I saw it, I knew it was true from my own experience. Discouragement robs us of energy, enthusiasm, and focus on the road ahead. Often times, I go into routines of examining the situation over and over, to little gain. The real world would probably consider these bouts of depression, but I’ve seen them more as times of spiritual warfare, although many of my theologically trained friends don’t believe in spiritual warfare. The insight of my spiritual director has helped me to begin to look differently upon these events. I don’t know that I will ever be capable of responding like Jesus, but at least now I am clear about the example he set.