A Post for Good Friday: Theology of Betrayal

For Good Friday I am going to re-run a post I wrote over a year ago. Expect another post tomorrow night. Today I am re-running a post about the pain of betrayal. From either being in a church that is hijacked, a spouse who has an affair, or a youth pastor who was a sexual predator who betrayed your trust. The brief story of my betrayal from Andrew White and some thoughts on what the Bible says about betrayal. When you betray you can either become like Peter or Judas. Who will you choose?

“The worst pain in the world goes beyond the physical. Even further beyond any other emotional pain one can feel. It is the betrayal of a friend.”

Heather Brewer

“For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first.”

Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games

But Jesus said, “Judas would you betray the son of man with a kiss?”

  Luke 22:48 NLT

For Good Friday I am going to re-run a post about betrayal that I wrote over a year ago. Good Friday deals with betrayal, and many of us have dealt with betrayal in one shape, manner or form. I think what I will do is re-run this post on each Good Friday. For those hurting and in pain because of betrayal…remember Jesus was betrayed as well.

 

One of the most painful things a person can experience in life is a betrayal. When you face a betrayal it always comes from someone you are close to…a friend, a spouse, pastor, etc… And a betrayal can take many forms.

Some of the people reading this may have experienced betrayal in the following manner:

  • You thought you were in a healthy marriage, a Godly committed husband. You did the church scene, marriage conferences, couples Bible study, etc… and all appeared well. Then you stumble across personal email correspondence and realize that your husband has been having an affair and hiding it well. You were betrayed.
  • Another person thought they were in a healthy church and were close to the Youth Pastor. He was charismatic, dynamic, and fun. You liked him and you thought it was neat that he was teaching your teenage son the Bible. Then he suddenly disappears, and commits suicide in central Wisconsin, and you learn that he was a sexual predator who molested and sexually abused a number of teenagers. This actually happened at Elmbrook Church in the Milwaukee area in 1999 a couple of years before I showed up. That is another form of betrayal. I wrote about this here.
  • You had a solid job you thought. You had worked hard, poured your soul into the company, and thought this company was going places. However, the company had problems and when you went home from work you didn’t realize it would be your last day. The company laid off a number of people and when you showed up for work the following day the office was closed, the doors were locked. I heard a similar story like that from a person who worked for Arthur Anderson in Milwaukee years ago, it was related to the Enron implosion.
  • You were deeply involved in a church. Actually it was your spiritual home. Then there is a shift in its theology with a new Pastor or a change in the Elder board. All of a sudden you start seeing 9 Marks material and SGM material which previously did not exist. The mood in your “local church” changes and before your eyes your church is theologically hijacked. Since you disagree with Neo-Calvinism this change forces you from the congregation and you become one of the nones. You are now spiritually homeless. Again you were betrayed and your church was stolen from you.

In my case I had a Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington, called Andrew White, who pursued me deeply. I had rejected Christianity amidst a deep personal faith crisis. Previous evangelical experience and being crushed by doubt – especially the problem of evil – had overwhelmed me. During this time Andrew wanted to have a large number of lunches, dinners, etc… On my birthday in 2012 he asked a number of co-workers to wish me a happy birthday. He left notes at my desk expressing that he cared for me, and his love. He pleaded in text messages, email, and messenger not to walk away from God. And during this time he was also inviting me to Redeemer Arlington. There was one time I was meeting with pastor to discuss the problem of evil, and before the meeting Andrew probably sent me one of the most caring text messages I ever received. He expressed his love for me, and how proud I was in trying to work things out, and that he will pray for my meeting with a pastor. Now its true we disagreed a lot, and I will always own my mistakes. That is part of being a man. However what happened on May 8, 2013 was so psychologically terrifying that I am trying to move beyond that day. Andrew White committed a horrific betrayal and he sent me into the darkest season of my life. He did this shortly after he invited me into his condo for a couple of days in March. While in his condo he walked me through his wedding album, showed me another album of his deployment to Iraq as a military officer, and sat down next to me and showed me pictures of his daughter. He went one by one and smiled as he illustrated each one. I honestly thought he was being a proud father and rightfully bragging. When I was in a difficult meeting on May 8, 2013 I couldn’t believe what was being leveled at me by Andrew White, and that it came from the same guy who shortly beforehand showed me pictures of his daughter. Andrew’s betrayal led me to manage a false accusation for 13 months or 408 days before the United States Air Force rotated him to an Air Force Base in Colorado.

The false accusation was so terrifying that I would be out and about in life, and hear the false accusation on the news and the following things would happen.

  • I would go into a panic.
  • I became fearful and frightened.
  • I developed anxiety whenever I heard one word.

In my mind there was no need to have my parents worry or be upset. In addition, my family already had enough on their hands, especially with my Dad having gone though a stage 3 brain tumor and still doing regular MRI scans. My family was nervous and my Mom often talked about her desire to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband. Sometimes my Mom cried over the uncertainty of what was unfolding, and with all that going on I decided I didn’t need to burden my parents with this news of what Andrew White did to me. A brain tumor is enough…

However, my Mom also knew something had happened and call it Mother’s intuition, a hunch, whatever…in late September 2013 my Mom asked what happened. This was a conversation that I didn’t want to have. Before I told them on the phone, I asked them to sit down because this was going to be a long conversation. I also knew it would be hard for my parents to understand since they are Catholic. And with that I told them the story. I told them about Andrew’s false accusation, what Sovereign Grace was, etc…. My Mom feared for her son and on the phone she wept at what Andrew White did. And with that my family was deeply hurt by Andrew, plus I was in great personal anguish over how Andrew’s sin had now affected my family.

Later in 2013 a thought popped in my head as I was analyzing the situation I was still managing. It actually gave me great encouragement, and I write about it here as an encouragement to those who have dealt with serous betrayal in their life. As I was reflecting on the betrayal that Andrew White committed, one of the things that dawned upon me is the following. I realized that some of the key individuals in the Bible at one point or another had been betrayed, hurt or wounded by a close friend, family member or someone else in their proximity. And I actually began to think that being betrayed is a sign of spiritual maturity because it puts me in company with people like Jesus, Joseph, Peter, Jeremiah, etc… Now note I am basically saying the Lord can redeem the situation but the Lord does not foreordain the betrayal. Allow me to share some examples of betrayal:

1. In 2nd Samuel you have Absalom betraying David, and this betrayal led to the death of Ahithopheli who committed suicide. The betrayal of David was in a union between his son Absalom, and Ahithopheli who were planning on overthrowing King David. This betrayal is what led to the 41st Psalm.

2. You have the most infamous betrayal in human history – all for 30 pieces of silver. I find it amazing that Jesus in his omniscience picked the guy who betrayed him and who would hand him over to the Romans. You can read about Judas in John 18.

3. You have the story of Joseph (Genesis 37:18-36) who was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt.

4. Then there is the story of Peter who denied and betrayed Jesus three times. I would suggest this betrayal came at the hour of Jesus’ greatest need. (Matthew 26:69-75)

5. Then there is Jeremiah. He writes about his betrayal which is captured in Jeremiah 20:10. As a result of his preaching Jeremiah found himself increasingly isolated until his close friend finally turned against him.

Will Andrew be like Peter or Judas?

There are other examples in scripture as well, but those are the ones off the top of my head. Now betrayal can lead to spiritual growth or it can lead to one’s spiritual demise. That is the key to any person who betrays. How are they going to respond? This is the dilemma that Andrew White faces. With this story still playing out, I wondered who is Andrew White going to be? What path will he choose? Is he going to be like Peter? Or spiritually is he going to be like Judas? I’ve actually spent a chunk of time praying and hoping that Andrew will be like Peter. While Peter’s betrayal by denying the Lord was horrific, in the end he became a much better person, a stalwart of the faith, a lion for the Lord and someone who served the Lord with intensity. Up until the time that he was killed in Rome, Peter never betrayed the Lord again. And I would argue that while Jesus forgave Peter for the betrayal, in the end Peter needed that moral failure so he could learn and grow. In the greater context of Peter’s life, the betrayal helped him become a towering figure of the faith. That failure by Peter was redeemed, and the church benefited as a result. If Andrew became like Peter his family, the greater church, and his community would benefit from his spiritual growth. And as for Judas I am not going to explore or write about that because I have been spending a lot of time praying for Andrew to become like Peter. I do love Andrew despite what he did, and I do want to see him go far in life. I’m not someone who can wish malice on another person. And if he repented and came to me and asked for forgiveness…I would release him in a heart beat.

Also I realized as time passed that given how deeply Andrew’s betrayal had wounded me it also became an opportunity to show him grace. It would be easy to become embittered or consumed with hate. But I realized that this is probably the only time in my life where I could show Andrew not the cheap grace that Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes about, but deep sacrificial grace. It could really be an opportunity for him to grew and become a man much deeper in his faith. And that is what I strived to see one day. The grace I could give Andrew after the burden that I carried could transform him into a better father, husband, and follower of the Lord. The key though is that one day Andrew would have to repent to maximize and develop a graduate level faith. People make mistakes I get that but in the economy of God all mistakes can be redeemed. Since many parts of Christianity today are consumed with moralism, it should be noted that mistakes, moral failures, sin, and even painful situations can be opportunities for the Gospel to shine. Now please note I am not saying a betrayal is foreordained.  That is where I draw the line with the Neo-Calvinist crowd. However, I do believe it can be redeemed and utilized.

If Andrew works at repenting for his sin, he could be an amazing member of “the local church.” Not only that but I would be on the hook to vouch for him and his character. So the question to Andrew White still stands…who is he going to become? Is he going to be like Peter? Or is he going to be like Judas? Like anyone who commits a betrayal the choice is his alone…

4 thoughts on “A Post for Good Friday: Theology of Betrayal

  1. The idea of re-running this popped in my head last Sunday. Since so many people I interact with have dealt with a searing and deep painful betrayal I thought it would be a good idea to re-run this for Good Friday considering that Christ was also betrayed. We are often united by our pain and suffering in more ways than we want to imagine.

    I am getting up another post about the Evangelical Free and Community in Elverson tomorrow night.

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  2. Peter and Judas actions on the night of Jesus arrest are often lumped together but I’m inclined to think they are quite different. Judas betrayal were premeditated, Peter’s denial was not. I also think Judas may have been more motivated by trying to force Jesus into Judas’ political agenda than money and when that agenda failed he had absolutely nothing left. Peter didn’t have it figured out either but there is a big difference between not understanding Jesus, yet still following, and trying to force Jesus into your own agenda.

    The difference between Peter and Judas may be similar to someone faltering in their faith versus those who use Jesus for their own ends. On the latter if you are thinking of many overpaid celebrity “pastors” then you make the same connection as I.

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