Have you ever been betrayed? I mean you discovered your trust had been misplaced and the hurt is real? Betrayal is sadly a part of life in a sinful world, but the Lord did not leave us without perspective and support.
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #14 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
A few years ago, I visited the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, and I was glad for the opportunity. It brought back a lot of memories.
When Richard Milhous Nixon was re-elected in 1972, I was a 20-year-old college student studying political science. I was thoroughly into the issues and the campaign, and Nixon became the first president I excitedly voted for. He was “my president” in the same way the college students who campaigned for President Barak Obama will forever feel a special attachment to him.
Later, as I walked to my car, I realized I felt down and a little twisted inside, and I thought, what’s this? Then it hit me. I felt betrayed, even a little angry.
The politics of Nixon’s second term had turned quickly to Watergate chaos. “What did he know and when did he know it?” In a painful few months Nixon’s presidency collapsed under the weight of malfeasance and an unexplained 18½ minute gap in a White House audio tape.
August 8, 1974, Richard Nixon announced his resignation. August 9, 1974, Nixon resigned, and Gerald R. Ford was sworn into office. August 10, 1974, Sarah and I got married. It was an eventful week.
It’s been over 40 years but viewing Nixon’s gravestone rekindled emotions I didn’t know remained. I’d been energized by this man’s leadership. I’d agreed with a measure of his policy perspectives, but he’d fooled me, Billy Graham, and many others.
Nixon squandered enormous political talent and experience. His personal character was exposed and didn’t match his public persona. He cheated to win re-election. He covered up. He lied. He did this to his country. He did this to me.
I felt betrayed because I’d put my trust in his leadership.
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I’ve also felt betrayed a few times in more personal ways than a distant president. I’m guessing you have too. It’s more realistic than cynical to say that if you live long enough someone will eventually trade on your trust.
And then there’s our behavior toward others. I don’t like to think that I may have betrayed someone, but as a sinner saved by grace, who’s still a sinner, I probably have.
Betrayal comes in many forms. Maybe in your workplace: people you trusted said things publicly about you that you later heard and could scarcely believe. People close to you, or so you thought, stayed faithful while they worked for or with you but verbally kicked you on the way out the company door. People were your friends as long as they got something out of the transaction; when circumstances changed, they stabbed you in the back. People lied about what really happened, or worse, they lied about you and assassinated your character. People you helped gain their positions used their newfound empowerment to undermine you.
By the way, criticism and betrayal are not synonymous, particularly if you hold a leadership position. Criticism rightly given and rightly received, iron sharpening iron, makes us better, stronger. Criticism seeks to help. Betrayal seeks to harm.
Maybe your company leaders betrayed the trust of thousands of employees, of which you are one, and now your pension fund or your investments are diminished or gone.
Maybe a spouse you loved was unfaithful.
And, of course, there are many more ways in which people betray people. Human beings are infinitely creative, so they keep inventing new ways to betray. It’s one of the sins of the human race that began when Cain betrayed Abel, and it’s not going to go away this side of heaven. It’s not fun and in fact it can hurt deeply.
Given the sin nature in all of us, betrayal, or the experience of being betrayed, is probably unavoidable. Betrayal comes to us all. So now what?
We have a choice on how we respond to betrayal. We can retaliate, hitting back in some tangible way that attempts to hurt others who’ve hurt us. We can seek revenge (kidding ourselves that it’s justice we’re after). We can contract for legal redress (I recognize that such remedies may at times be biblically justifiable, but I’d recommend mediation or arbitration before pursuing lawsuits as a last resort). We can dissolve into bitter recrimination.
Or we can look to the Lord for another way toward resolution that may or may not ultimately result in reconciliation. The Bible tells us how.
1-Pray. James 5:13 - “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” My Mother used to tell me this. I’d come home from school with some story of what an evildoer had done to me and she’d say, “Have you prayed for him?” I didn’t want to pray for him. I wanted to punch him. But I did discover that one cannot pray sincerely for someone and continue ill feelings in your heart. The Spirit takes over, changing our feelings if not the circumstances and directing our response toward life.
2-Never respond in kind. James 4:11 - “Brothers, do not slander one another.” Never put in print what you’ll be ashamed of later. Print possesses a shelf-life longer than your life. Cyberspace magnifies your responses even broader and faster, potentially to billions. Besides, vitriolic responses are about hurting, not healing.
3-Never over-react. Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” This too shall pass. It’s amazing how different personal battles appear from the vantage point of time. Not long ago I spoke with a man with whom I’d battled a few times. He and I were just different, and it came out, not in things we’re ashamed we said but in periodic friction. Funny thing was, when we talked, neither of us could remember the substance of the issues involved. All we could remember is that we used to butt heads and now we wondered why.
4-Never seek vengeance. Romans 12: 17-19 - “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge…I will repay, says the Lord.” Turning the other cheek may be one of the more difficult things we’re called upon to do in our lives. God is sovereign. He knows. He’ll make things right in his good time.
5-Forgive. Colossians 3:13 - “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Responding to betrayal with forgiveness brings resolution to us even if the other person(s) never change or are never open to reconciliation. Forgiveness is not only right; it’s a release. It literally liberates us. What mattered no longer matters. When we forgive, we don’t work to make the offending parties “admit” or “apologize.” We don’t work to “win.” We simply ask the Lord to enable us to forgive when it’s beyond our ability to do so. And he does.
6-Bless and be at peace with them. Romans 12:14, 16 - “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Live in harmony with one another.” No one’s ever been betrayed like Jesus. Judas used his three-year relationship to identify Jesus with a kiss and betrayed the Savior for 30 pieces of silver. Peter denied Jesus three times. The Disciples deserted him.
Yet Jesus loved them all, even calling Judas “Friend,” and he continued in the Father’s mission to sacrifice the Son to make forgiveness and reconciliation possible.
I know that responding to betrayal with forgiveness is not the natural thing to do. But that’s the point. Christians aren’t supposed to be natural, but spiritual.
Jesus is the only one who can enable us to overcome betrayal.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. For more Christian commentary, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, Discerning What Is Best, or check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
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