On Sunday, as we wrapped up John chapter 18, we were dealing with an issue embedded deep within the chapter; betrayal. In chapter 13, Judas had taken his Que and left the other disciples and Jesus. Escaping under the darkness of night to sell out the one who loved him.
Julius Caesar gasped out the words, "Et Tu Brute'?" as his friend Brutus plunged the knife into his back…William Wallace fell back stunned at the battle of Falkirk as he captured a noble from the opposing army only to find out that it was none other than Robert The Bruce, the one Wallace thought he was fighting for and with…We see it again in Gladiator, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars. Betrayal is a meta story in most all the epic movies that make their mark on our hearts.
The hardest wound to heal is the wound of betrayal. It attacks every sense and faculty. Injustice happens between people, betrayal happens between friends. When their is unfaithfulness between spouses. When a business deal between friends goes south. When someone at work sells you out to promote their own advancement.
In John 18 there were some key questions that if not answered correctly lead us to making some bad choices in our lives. The first question was thundered by Jesus. As the army of soldiers and temple police approached Jesus and His band of disciples in Gethsemane, Jesus said, "Who are you looking for?!" Stunned, they replied, "We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth." The whole entourage fell back to the ground as Jesus replied, "I AM"
While John doesn't reveal to us the "Judas Kiss" that the other Gospel accounts reveal, Judas is right there leading the way. I wonder how deep the pain was in Jesus as He looked at, and into, the heart of a man He had given 3 years of His earthly life, and was about to give His life blood for within some hours upon a Roman cross.
I believe Jesus is still asking that question, "Who are you looking for?" Are you looking for a Jesus who fits what you want God to be? Are you looking for a Jesus that will help you be successful in life? Are you looking for a Jesus that will help your political party? Are you looking for a Jesus that will give you everything you want? Are you looking for a Jesus that was formed for you by a Hallmark card?
Many people are looking, but they are looking for "their" kind of Jesus…we need to simply be looking for the real Jesus, as he is, not as we want Him. Any other Jesus is anemic and truly unable to help.
The second question in John 18 came from Pontius Pilate. As he was having a higher level discussion with Jesus, who was bound before him, Jesus remarks that, "I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." To this Pilate responds cynically, "What is truth?!"
If we haven't sought out the real Jesus, not the Jesus of our culture, but who He really is, then we will fall for any truth that sounds kind of right. By the way there is a new truth out there trying to pull you away from Christ every day. Most of these other truths come so deceptively disguised. In fact they even camouflage themselves in a veil of spirituality. But the heart of their message is a very different Jesus. Their Jesus exists to simply make you happy not holy. Their Jesus would never call you on your sin and selfishness. Their Jesus has just enough truth to entice you but leave you empty after you try it for a while.
We humans have an incredible capacity to repeat the sins of Adam by making ourselves God, and God our servant. Sometimes we work really hard at spiritual things and then subconsciously believe that God "owes" us, again, we have replaced truth.
When we miss Jesus' question of "Who are you looking for?" and Pilate's question of "What is truth?" then we cry the third statement out of John 18 with the crowd…"Give us Barabbas!"
There is a real, knowable, personal God, who has been fully revealed through Jesus Christ, who says to us that, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." If we settle for an imitation Jesus, and a culturally crafted Jesus, we will ask for Barabbas when we are faced with a real choice.
We have choices every day to choose between a false Jesus and the real Jesus, and sometimes, if we aren't grounded in the Truth, we choose Barabbas, and God says, "Okay, have Barabbas." Then when Barabbas shows up and our world falls apart we get angry at God for allowing such pain to enter our world, and He says, "You asked for Barabbas."
Deep cuts. Anguish that causes you to heave and sob from a place that you didn't even know existed in your body. Anger, befuddlement, exasperation, rage, love, pain. There is no end to the descriptive words of betrayal.
Every person has experienced betrayal at some level. So while we talked briefly at some processing steps to work through, I really didn't much time to expand those steps. So Let's look at the 4 movements to breaking free from the death grip of betrayal.
In my own journey, when the wound of betrayal has come, it has been hard to get to a place of perspective, it just hurts. Your hurt is real, and your anger is understandable. In fact those are necessary emotions that you need to experience if you are going to move beyond the pain into healing. Their is a loss to be grieved, and in our culture we do not know how to grieve. If we don't grieve, the pain collects in our soul poisoning our heart. So the first step is the Remember that you are not in this thing alone.
In other words, you must invite God into the process with you. Here we are aligning our heart to His, so that we can experience something beyond the anger and pain. God is with you even when you don't sense Him. And perhaps the biggest lesson of the betrayal of Jesus by not only Judas, but by all of us, is that He really does know how it feels, the pain, the emptiness. His promise to never leave you or forsake you are tender words spoken to a reed that is crushed in soul and spirit. He knows, He cares.
This will not make everything all better, but it does bring in some God-light to a dark place, and reminds us that there is still presence and hope. This will begin the healing journey together with God.
Once we have invited God into the healing process, and allow the Holy Spirit access to the wounds of betrayal, we will begin to become aware of how the pain has affected our life. The attitudes, thoughts, mental sermons, wrongful reactions all need to be recycled.
As we feel angry, we ask God to help us recycle it into peace.
As we feel hopeless, we ask God to recycle that into faith.
As we feel resentful, we ask God to help us extend grace.
As we want to avenge our wrong, we ask God to retake control in our lives.
As we feel fear, we ask God to replace it with courage.
As we feel hatred, we ask God to recycle that with forgiveness.
Recycling the pain happens as we allow God in the process as the director, not merely as a spectator. It doesn't come easy, and it won't just happen with one little prayer. This is a moment by moment, breath by breath surrender to the will and care of God in our lives. Perhaps the first step here is to ask God to help you desire to get to the point where you want to recycle the emotions. So that leads me to the third step.
We need to replace self-rule with God-rule.In other words, we need to let go of our desire to exact judgment, and have everything come to a close the way we want it to. When we take control of the retribution and justice of the betrayal, we have just taken over God's sovere
ign role as the giver of all true justice. That doesn't mean we become a door-mat mind you, but it does require that we turn over the controls to Him, even when events seem utterly wrong to us. We must trust that God is at work.
One thing I have learned over the years is that God is far better at dealing justly with people than I am. And that when I try to take on God's job, I generally end up far worse than I was when the betrayal first happened. If you have been gripping onto the betrayal and holding it as yours, then you need to repent of playing God and ask God to call the shots. He will have some soul work for you to do. This work will lead to a greater trust in His goodness, and will hep you move from driver to back-seat driver, and then finally as guest. The biggest hurdle to the replace step is the fourth movement.
Finally, the way out of the vicious betrayal jungle is to release the offender. This is always the hardest step because a wronged person feels that to release the offender is to let them off the hook for what they have done. With the betrayal wounds so deep, this goes against their sense of justice, and their desire to make the betrayer pay for the pain and damage they caused.
Some psychiatrists I have read have stated that upwards of 90% of their client load would begin to experience healing if they would be able to do one thing…forgive the person(s) they are resenting, and holding anger towards.
Unforgiveness can also be sly and deceptive. In fact, it can even feel good…for a while. Forgiveness isn't about the person who is forgiven as much as it is about the person who forgives. To remain in a state of unforgiveness keeps us disconnected from the goodness and voice of God. Jesus states that if we desire being forgiven by the Father, we must forgive those who have wronged us. He didn't say that just because, no, He knows that unforgiveness slowly erodes your soul, making you a prisoner of it's slow death.
Forgiving the offender is also not a one time shot, but rather you will need to release your offender many times. Sights, smells, and sounds will transport you to a place of vivid memories of the wound, and you will need to release again. Many people have asked me, "how will I know when I have forgiven them?" To that I would say there are a couple good signs:
1. When you see the person, does your stomach still knot up and give you a sick feeling? If it does, then you still have some releasing to do. When you can see them and not feel it in your body, you have probably released them.
2. Are you able to pray for them and honestly ask God to bless them as they are? If you can, you have probably released and forgiven them, if you can't you need to keep forgiving as it enters your mind.
To forgive doesn't mean that you have to be best friends again, or even friends for that matter. There is a long road of trust building ahead of a deep betrayal. In fact, the person may still not even be safe enough to be around, and you may still be too fragile to be in their company without getting re-triggered by their unchanged behaviors.
So we forgive to release ourselves by releasing the offender. We forgive not because they have asked for forgiveness, but because we choose to be free, experience healing, and place God on the throne of our lives instead of ourselves and our agenda.
None of these movements are easy, but they are necessary if you are to live the abundant life. Jesus experienced betrayal so that you could experience life, real life.
May you use these steps to experience the freedom that can only come from Jesus Christ today.