Robert Griffith | 30 March 2021
Robert Griffith
30 March 2021


Betrayal in any context is painful. Betrayal in the Church is even more painful because we assume that a certain level of trust, loyalty, transparency and honesty exists among the disciples of Christ. But of course almost every pastor or Church leader I have known in over forty years in ministry has experienced betrayal in one form or another. Yet despite its prevalence, it continually seems to catch us by surprise. When you are passionately consumed in the work of loving the Bride of Christ, you just aren’t expecting to be blindsided by betrayal. When that betrayal comes from trusted colleagues, even friends or perhaps people you looked up to and regarded as mentors, it can break your heart and plunge you into a deep pit of disappointment, bewilderment and pain.

That pit has been my home a number of times throughout my ministry and I can attest first-hand that it is a cold, dark and incredibly lonely place. Even those closest to you cannot reach you at the bottom of this pit. The only voices you hear come from God or from the demons who are celebrating your demise. Unfortunately, hearing God’s voice through the pain of betrayal can be very difficult. The loudest voices come from the dark forces who now comfort you and try to convince you that it’s actually God Who has betrayed you, deceived you and abandoned you. It is a truly dark place.

However God doesn’t seem to be too concerned that you are broken, disheartened, bewildered or in pain. He can actually work with that. What God will not allow you to be is surprised. If you try and step back from your personal situation and look at the big picture, you might be strangely comforted by the facts. Betrayal is on every page of our human story. How many different ways has God shown us in the Bible that betrayal is part of this journey? From the disobedience in the garden of Eden, to king David being hunted like an animal by the man who had mentored and loved him – betrayal has been there from the beginning. The entire book of Hosea depicts the betrayal of Israel turning to other gods, and Yahweh’s broken heart.

The story of the sacred romance between God and God’s people is a roller coaster of ups and downs. God’s people frequently believe their best interests lie in the promises of those other than the God who delivered them from slavery and fed them in the wilderness. Instead they desire cucumbers, wine and the comforts of the world. Betrayal pulses through Scriptures from the very beginning. It’s the dark catalyst for the entire story of God’s redemption that unfolds throughout every page from Genesis to Revelation. It is cruel, it injures, it breaks relationships, it tears down love, and it seems to always be lurking. So it should be no surprise to us when betrayal emerges in our church communities today. If God’s people betray God, why would we not betray each other?

I’ve known many pastors who have experienced different kinds of betrayals, each one inflicts a deep wound to their souls. Some have been able to restore relationships, some have moved on to other ministry positions, whereas others have left this ministry because the wounds were just too deep and their souls were too dry. Betrayal violates trust. It breaks something sacred: a promise spoken or unspoken to protect the other, to support the other, to love and uplift the other. This trust can be violated in both big and small ways. But it always leaves the betrayed feeling vulnerable, raw, exposed and not wanting to trust anyone again. Often the hurt is deep because the relationships which have broken were important and we cannot believe this has happened. We may have been investing all of ourselves, only to discover that a relationship we believed to be reciprocal, actually wasn’t. What we do with these betrayals may vary widely, depending on the situation.

There are times when it is right to walk away. Spiritual abuse should not be tolerated. Abuse by the Church, by those in leadership, those with authority is never okay. Sometimes it is right and healthy to leave or to get help. But in every case, betrayal will leave scars, whether large or small. We carry these scars of betrayal with us into other church fellowships, ministries and relationships. We may approach our next Church with caution and trust slowly. After betrayal has caught us by surprise and knocked the wind out of us, we brace ourselves for another hit. We still love Jesus, and His Bride, but we are afraid and we don’t want to get hurt again.

A couple of years ago I was blessed to be part of a worship service in my own congregation where I was not leading or preaching – a rare treat. We were led by one of our retired Pastors at that time and it was really wonderful to just be one of the worshippers for a change. I was surrounded by the people Jesus loves. Each seat was filled with someone for whom Jesus gave His life, someone for whom He laid down everything. Before we were invited up front for Communion I heard the words spoken that I’ve heard thousands of times before.

“On the night He was betrayed…”

I have read those words. I have heard those words. I have spoken those words over the Communion table so many times. I have shared those words with multiple congregations. But this time, I was hearing those words from the bottom of the pit of betrayal. This time, those words screamed in my ear like a trumpet blast.

“On the night He was betrayed…”

God in the flesh, the Word incarnate, suffered betrayal at the hands of one of His closest companions – one who was supposed to support Him, stand up for Him, love Him – but instead he sold Him out for personal gain and self-preservation. The consequences were real. It caused great suffering and inflicted unimaginable pain. Jesus’ own mother watched in total despair as He was tortured and then executed. His other friends abandoned Him as well and betrayed Him further by denying they even knew Him. This betrayal left a wake of destruction. More than a sting, it cut like a sword to the soul, ultimately separating Him from the very heart of God.

“On the night He was betrayed…”  the Pastor said, “Jesus took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, this is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus did something for me and then asked me to do something for Him. So if you find yourself in this pit of betrayal at any time, you must remember Him. Remember that Jesus felt this sting infinitely more than we ever will, because of what He did for us, on the night He was betrayed. In the midst of His own betrayal, Jesus gave His utmost. There was no room left for Him to think of His own pain, He could only think of those for whom that pain was necessary. Jesus always saw the bigger picture – a Kingdom picture. Jesus never allowed His personal needs, pain or experiences in this earthly realm to hinder His mission to bring us into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus knew how broken and corrupt humanity was – that’s why He came. Through the greatest injustice in all of human history, God gave us the greatest gift we could ever imagine. An innocent man was misunderstood, betrayed, tortured and murdered – but through His death he brought salvation to those who orchestrated His demise. This is grace. This is the gospel. When Jesus said, “Follow me,” He expected us to follow Him everywhere. That means we get to celebrate the miracles, the healings, the transformation of others as the Word of God is preached. But He also calls us to follow Him into Gethsemane and up to Calvary – and not once, but every day of our earthly lives.

Bonheoffer was spot on when he said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” So what lessons might we learn in this dark pit of betrayal? I sure there are many. Let me finish by offering a few for you to ponder as you wait for God to bring you out of this painful place in His time:

> Never forget that even the people who betray you are part of God’s plan. Jesus couldn’t get to the cross without Judas.

> Sometimes the only way God can show us He really is in control is to put us in situations we can’t control.
> Forgiveness doesn’t excuse someone’s actions. Forgiveness stops their actions destroying your heart.
> It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!
> Forgiving someone who is contrite and sorry is tough enough, the true test of grace is to forgive those who refuse to believe they did anything wrong
> Don’t compromise your destiny for company. Jesus came to fulfill a mission, not make friends.
> God can’t heal who you pretend to be. You must come to Him as you truly are.
> Sometimes you feel like you are being buried, when in fact you are being planted. God is using this season to grow you.
> Betrayal leads us all to a crossroad. We can choose the road marked bitterness or the road marked brokenness. God can only work with our brokenness. If we choose bitterness, we will remain in the pit.
> And then there’s this confronting postscript from one my favourite preachers: A.W. Tozer,
“We need a baptism of clear seeing. We desperately need seers who can see through the mist. We need Christian leaders with prophetic vision. Unless they come soon it will be too late for this generation. And if they do come we will no doubt crucify a few of them in the name of our worldly religion.”

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