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Betrayal! How To Biblically Respond When You're Betrayed By A Friend

            I have always enjoyed studying the great men of history and reading their stories.  One of the men I enjoy studying is George Washigton.  I especially enjoy reading about his time as the leader of the Continental Army.


            Leading this group of undisciplined soldiers was at times very frustrating for General Washington.  He learned to surround himself with only the best men who were devoted to the cause.  He put his 100% trust in them, and he expected the same. 


            General Washington had one General he respected and trusted.  This General bravely fought to defeat the British at Ridgefield and Dansbury.  He helped capture Fort Ticonderoga.  He led the invasion of Canada.  He single-handedly rallied the troops at the Battle of Saratogo while enduring a crippling leg injury.  Without this General’s leadership and military contributions, few believe we would have won our independence. 


           Who was this beloved General and friend to General Washington? 


           General Benedict Arnold.    


           That’s right!  The man who General Washington respected and trusted turned out to be the poster child for betrayal.  No other person besides Judas Iscariot is so synonymous with betrayal as Benedict Arnold. 


           Can you imagine the blow it was to General Washington we he learned of Benedict Arnold’s treason?  The sensation of being stabbed in the back must have been horrific!  There is no worse feeling than having a friend, a close, personal friend who you trust stab you in the back.  How do you respond to such betrayal? 


           This month, we are going to look at this topic that no one likes to think about but most people will face at some point in their lives…how to respond to betrayal from a friend.  Like Genereal Washington, many have encountered people they thought were trusted friends that they could count on to always have their backs, only to have this person jam a knife deep into the very back they were supposed to be protecting.  Nothing is more painful than betrayal of a friend.  David sums up the pain in Psalms 55 when he says,


            My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me.  5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me….12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me,     I could hide.  13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.


            Attacks from a stranger or acquaintance are hard to deal with, but when the attacks and betrayal comes at the hands of a friend, it is unbearable pain.  So how do we get back up?  How do we respond when someone we loved and trusted like a brother stabs you I and back and twists the knife?


            Let’s start by saying how not to respond.  This piece of advice is one of the hardest things in the world not to do, yet a man of God has to do it.  We cannot react in a vengeful or hateful way.  We cannot try and destroy our attacker or pay them back for the evil they did to us.  This is the actions of a carnal man, and we are men following God.  So as hard as it is, we have to respond in a Christlike manner. 


            Lucky for us, the Bible gives us an example of how Jesus responded to being stabbed in the back by a close friend.  As we examine Jesus’ example, we will see 4 ways to respond when facing devastating betrayal from a friend.


            Most people, even nonbelievers, instantly know who it was who betrayed Jesus.  I mean, just the other day I was watching a television show in which one person wanted to let the other person know their actions were a betrayal.   What vicious name did they call the person?   "Judas".  


            Yes, the name Judas has become synonymous with betrayal, treachery and backstabbing.  We all know that Judas was the man that betrayed Jesus and handed Him over to be crucified.  Still, a study of these events will show us not just the act of betrayal, but the way we are to handle our betrayers.


            You see, even though everything we are going to study today takes place BEFORE Judas betrayed Jesus, we have to realize that Jesus knew Judas would betray him.  Jesus knew Judas, the man He had called to follow Him, the man he invested three years of discipleship and mentorship into, the man He had loved like a brother, the very one He trusted to handle the “ministry purse strings”, was going to betray Him.


            I remember once watching a tv show where people were going to do a live reenactment of Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” painting.  The person who was going to be Jesus was really into the part, hanging out with his “disciples” and doing fun activities.   That is until, he met the person who played Judas Iscariot.  The man playing Jesus immediately shunned the other man, didn’t ask him to go to dinner or bowling with the rest of the group, and eventually ended up rolling around the floor in a brawl with the man playing Judas.  While hilarious to watch, it is also the exact opposite of what the Real Son of God did when dealing with a close friend who would betray Him.  So, knowing full well Judas was going to stab Him in the back, how did Jesus treat Judas?


1.  Jesus did good to him


            John 13:1   It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.


          2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.


            This passage is quite clear that Jesus knew Judas was about to commit the ultimate betrayal against Him, yet He still dropped to His knees and washed the slime and filth off the feet of this slimy man.  Jesus didn’t lord over Judas or put him in his place.  He didn’t treat him cruelly or push him away.  He, instead, put on a servant's heart and did good to him.


            When dealing with a betrayer, the hardest thing in the world to do is not to repay evil with evil.   Yet, this is what God calls us to do.  We need to do good to those who treat us badly.  If Jesus, the Son of God, could bring Himself to wash the filthy feet of His betrayer, we can do good to our betrayers as well.


2.  Jesus loved him


21 After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray Me.”

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask Him which one He means.”

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked Him, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.


            Alfred Edersheim states that Judas had the seat of honor next to Jesus, on His left.  Other commentaries say that this passage shows that Judas was sitting next to Jesus at the table because he was in arms reach of Jesus to receive the bread meant he was sitting next to Him.  Plus, Judas was privy to the discussion about who the betrayer was, whereas most of the disciples at the table were not.  After all, most of the disciples at the table did not think that Jesus, when he told Judas to do his task quickly, was referring to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, but rather to Judas’ responsibilities as the group’s treasurer (John 13:26-29; cp. Matthew 26:25).  John and Judas were privy to the discussion about Judas being the betrayer, indicating that they probably sat next to Jesus.


            Interesting, but what does it have to do with dealing with a betrayer?  Well, if Judas was sitting next to Jesus, it means that Jesus gave Judas, His betrayer, the seat of honor above all of the other disciples.  Sitting next to the Master was a high privilege. 


            Jesus showed love to Judas by treating him this way, knowing full well what the rest of the night entailed.  He did everything He could to help Judas see he was loved.  We need to do the same.


            There is no way in the world we are going to like the person who betrays us, it would be unnatural and, honestly, unhealthy, if we did.  But we need to love them and see that our struggle is not against flesh and blood.  Satan was controlling Judas.  Granted, Judas gave ground to be used, but the attack was spiritual.  The same is true in our situation.  Our betrayers are being used by the enemy to attack us and stop us in our tracks.  We have to show Christlike love for our enemies and not treat them with hate.  We don’t have to like them, but we do have to love them.


3.  Jesus forgave him


Matthew 26:47 Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The One I kiss is the Man; arrest Him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend?”


            How could Jesus call Judas friend?   I believe it was because Jesus had already forgiven Judas for what He did.   He didn’t call him a name that implied anger, hate or unforgiveness.  Instead, He called him “friend”.


            We need to also forgive the one who betrays us.  Why?  Because all unforgiveness does is holds us in bondage and captive to them.  However, when we forgive them, we free OURSELVES from their actions.  So we need to forgive them.


4.  Jesus let him go


John 13:7 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.  So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”


            Ok, this event happened before the last event, but I wanted to end with this point.  Jesus did everything He could to help Judas and work through the betrayal, but when push came to shove, He had to release Judas.  He had to part ways with His betrayer.


           While we need to be sure to show love, forgiveness, and have a heart of reconciliation with our betrayer, if they refuse to accept our love and forgiveness, then you have to move on and let them go.  The relationship cannot continue.  God commands us to love and forgive, but He doesn’t command us to be a whipping post.  We do not have to continue a relationship with a betrayer who refuses to work things out and deal with the issues.  We have to let them go and end the relationship.


            I guess I list this point to relieve some guilt many people feel who don’t want to continue a relationship with a betrayer.   As long as you treat them with love, dignity, and respect, you do not have to continue in a relationship with them.  Don’t let them or anyone else place guilt on you for this.  It is not your fault as long as you handled yourself in a godly way.


            That is what this entire article is all about.  Betrayal comes in all forms and sizes.  Most of us have experienced or will experience it at some point in our lives.  We have no control over how out betrayer acts, but we have keep control over our actions.  We need to respond in a Christlike way.  We need to follow Jesus’ example and love, forgive, and do good to our enemies.  However, we don’t need to be a doormat.  It is okay to pull back from the relationship.  What is important is to respond like Jesus responded.  When we can do this, we can gain victory over our betrayal.

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