Years ago I hired a part-time church staff member to help with the business aspects of ministry. After just a few months, I found out that he had gathered a group to discuss whether it was biblical to pay pastors. He never consulted me on the issue. It was a secret “Bible Study” on an issue of fundamental importance to me as the leader of the church.
The Bible is quite clear on the topic of pastoral payment (see 1 Corinthians 9:14, 1 Timothy 5:17-18). If he had consulted with me, we could have resolved the issue, and developed a bond together. But instead, he avoided me and acted subversively. He was soon gone from this part-time job.
A betrayal is a violation of our trust. For example:
- Physical, verbal, or sexual abuse at the hands of a friend, parent or other family member
- A business partner or associate who withholds vital information from you
- Disloyalty from a trusted team member
The Bible is filled with true examples of betrayals. Jesus knew the pain of betrayal. Judas, one of His trusted disciples, turned Him in to those who wanted to kill Him. Judas even took award money for betraying Christ.
1 Samuel 16:1-4 records the betrayal which King David experienced by Mephibosheth. David had taken him in and graciously treated him like his own son. But Mephibosheth was ungrateful and abandoned David in pursuit of his grandfather Saul’s kingdom.
There are 3 steps that can help us navigate our way through the terrible pain of betrayal:
1. Acknowledge our Feelings
When betrayed, it is normal to feel and express a range of emotions such as:
These emotions may come in overwhelming waves, but with God’s help we can make progress toward wholeness.
Unhealthy responses such as substance abuse, violence and rage will only complicate our lives and delay recovery.
Healthy responses to the pain of betrayal include:
- Praying and reading God’s Word
- Talking with a trusted friend
- Meeting with a counselor
- Journaling about our feelings
- Exercising and self care
2. Have Faith that God has a Plan
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. They threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery. He was also falsely accused by his Egyptian slave master’s wife and thrown into prison. However, God was with Joseph in prison and blessed him.
After Joseph’s release from prison he became the top leader in Egypt next to Pharaoh and was able to keep his family alive during a severe famine.
Joseph said to his brothers “And you intended evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to make it as it is this day, to keep a great many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
Christians have God’s promise of Romans 8:28 which says “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
We, like Joseph, can rest assured that God is working a plan for good even in the midst of sinful betrayal!
3. Forgive and Learn to Trust Again if Trust is Earned
During betrayal, forgiveness may be unimaginable. We may feel like forgiveness would mean letting the person get away with their disloyal actions.
But, consider the consequences of holding in such damaging emotions such as:
Medical doctors tell us these emotions can result in:
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
Forgiveness sets us free.
According to Mark 11:25, our forgiveness of another’s betrayal is a requirement for us to receive God’s forgiveness. Jesus said; “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)
We have all fallen short of God’s perfect standard and sinned. If anyone has a right to hold a grudge it is God. Yet he forgives us through Jesus Christ, and expects us to do the same, for our own good.
- Is a decision based on our will, not our feelings.
- Provides an opportunity to rebuild trust as it is earned.
In time, we can learn to risk and trust again if trust is earned.
Forgiveness is always healthy and required by God. Rebuilding trust depends on the renewed trustworthiness of the betrayer.
Give forgiveness freely and generously. Give renewed trust as it is earned.