On Dealing with Betrayal and Rejection

I realise that this might come as news to some of you, but I am a human being as well – I have flesh and bone, and I even have feelings like all the rest. So I too can be hurt and wounded. And it happens quite often actually. But that is part of living on planet earth.

A rather jaundiced view of things might say that life is pretty good, if it weren’t for other people! But other folks are who we deal with every day. And sometimes they shaft you and anger you and abuse you. That is life, and it is not always easy, but that is how it goes.

Indeed, we expect to be used, abused and misused by non-Christians. The worrying bit is that we so often get such lousy treatment from fellow Christians. We get other believers attacking us, criticising us, gossiping about us, maligning us, and betraying us.

And guess what? It hurts like hell, especially when it comes from those who were close and trusted friends or allies. But believe me, if you are a Christian, and especially if you are involved in any sort of leadership, you will get all sorts of abuse from other Christians.

judas-betrayerMany will reject you and even betray you. It stinks. But it is sadly part of life in a fallen world. We expect better things from those who claim to be God’s people, but we all are fallen and finite, and we all are less than what we are supposed to be.

So how should we respond? Perhaps it is best to first ask how not to respond. The obvious and natural response is evident: bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, resentment, withdrawal, and so on. This is how we tend to react. Indeed, some believers will be so bummed out by the treatment they get that they will even give up on the Christian life altogether.

While all such reactions may be understandable, they are not biblical. So if that is what we should not do, what then should we do? The first thing is to expect that these sorts of things are going to happen. I know, it should not be happening, but I guarantee you, it will.

Friends and colleagues will hate on you. They will desert you. They will betray you. Sadly, you must count on that. Sure, it hurts like all get out, but it will happen. So don’t be surprised when it occurs. If anything, be surprised that it does not happen more often!

And be even more thankful for those friends and associates who have stood strong with you. Not all are deserters and false friends. But as to those who have been so very hard on us, we are called to something better than resentment or retaliation.

As difficult as it is, we must at least seek to pray for those who have hurt us and betrayed us. We must be willing to forgive and even forget. And where possible, we should seek to keep our bridges open. It is so very tempting to burn your bridges with these folks: “I won’t have anything more to do with that jerk”.

I understand the sentiment, but it is not good counsel. There have been so many times when I have been hurt or attacked or betrayed, but I have sought to keep open the possibility of restoration, and sometimes (certainly not always), months or years later, the relationship is repaired.

Sometimes the person will even ask for forgiveness (a great bonus) but sometimes they may just want to overlook their past transgressions. Well, we must try to as well. Biblical love demands that of us. Christian love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Sure, sometimes there are wise reasons to move on from certain people, and there is no value in seeking to restore every former friendship, alliance or partnership. So a bit of wisdom is needed here. But being open to forgive and love your enemies anyway should always be on the table.

But surely the best way to deal with all this is to look at one person who knows more about this than any of us ever will. Jesus of course experienced way more betrayal, backstabbing, desertion and rejection than any of us will ever come close to.

He was rejected by his own people. By the religious leaders. Even by his own beloved disciples. Imagine pouring your life into a group of people for three years, only to find they have all turned on you, even betrayed you. Yet he loved the twelve to the end, despite all this.

Worse yet, he even knew beforehand of such betrayal. Indeed, a thousand years earlier messianic psalms were describing this, as in Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

Jesus appealed to this verse in John 13:18: “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me’.” And recall the description of Jesus the Suffering Servant as found in Isaiah 53. Verse 3 says this:

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

He knew all about rejection. And recall the culmination of all this rejection and hatred, when Jesus was hanging on the cross. He could have pronounced a curse of destruction on the whole lousy lot of them, but instead prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Unlike all of us, who so often deserve what we get from others, Jesus deserved none of it. He was the perfect, loving, gracious Son of God who could do no wrong, yet his own still shafted him. It is a good thing he did not respond as most of us respond.

So he is our model here. He is our example. He showed us the way forward. He demonstrated for us how we are to respond to our enemies, our betrayers, our attackers. So look to Jesus on how to react when the haters come and the betrayers do their worst.

I certainly have to keep learning this. I still hurt from things done to me ages ago. But real Christianity is being Christlike in times when that is the hardest thing to do – or to even want to do. So please keep standing strong. Don’t renounce the faith. Don’t pull into a shell. Don’t be corrupted by bitterness and a refusal to forgive.

Instead, move on, with the help and grace of God.

[1133 words]

14 Replies to “On Dealing with Betrayal and Rejection”

  1. Hi Bill!
    Great article indeed! Forgiveness can be hard when you have been betrayed, let down and also falsely accused of things! But Jesus went through that, and is still going through that and He wants us to forgive and have grace towards those who hurt us and let us down… just like He does!

  2. Like C.S.Lewis says: “forgiveness is easy until you have someone to forgive”.

    Sometimes you do need to stay away from certain people though… I’m still learning this stuff myself. If someone treats you like dirt, that could be a sign that he/she is a goat. I sometimes find it difficult to discern whether to assertively rebuke a person (in love of course), or not. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we’re pushovers… This is a tough one, and it does require a lot of discernment to act in a proper, biblical manner.

  3. Thanks Bill, a timely reminder that tough times are coming or are indeed here & as the scriptures say rejection will come from those close to us, even from our own families. To see evil on all fronts multiplying as the social engineers ram their agenda into the blinded lost it is very hard not to be in a constant state of righteous anger. One of the hardest tasks is to have love, grace & joy in Christ when you witness it happening. Thanks for refocusing me on Jesus’s response to these situations, he indeed is our template. Love your work Bill. Regards Peter.

  4. Wise and inspired words indeed Bill. Sometimes you just have to walk away even after long friendships. It hurts and hurts but sometimes there is no quick fix, no bandaid that can heal the wound. The love doesn’t just die and grace upon grace is needed. Your words are from experience and any Christian willing to stand up for the uncompromising truth should relate painfully well. Thanks Bill and bless you my friend.

  5. Religious leaders betray their people when they fail to speak the truth either through cowardice or, God forbid, because they don’t believe it. We are seeing examples of this now in the same-sex marriage debate. Several of the prayers at mass this morning were for refugees; why are we not praying that this country not legalize same-sex marriage? We need to pray for our religious leaders.

  6. Yes Bill, it does hurt a lot. We all need to spend more time in prayer, and deepen our spiritual lives generally, remembering that we are in a spiritual battle. “He [God] gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power” (Isaiah 40:29)

    B T Waters will be pleased to hear that a 24 hour vigil for the upholding of the true meaning of marriage will be held before the Blessed Sacrament at Broken Bay Cathedral this Friday and Saturday. The bishop will be present.

    May God bless you, Bill, for the work that you do.

  7. B T Walters, please be encouraged.

    Prayer for retention of marriage features in more places than you might realize.

    Also prayer for the broader issue of the nation returning to its Christian foundations, prayer for our leaders and so on.

    So keep praying where you are, too.

  8. Hi Bill,

    So well expressed and thank you for being courageous and honest enough to be so transparent about your own personal walk as a Christian. This has really blessed me personally and I have no doubt many others. It is the getting back up and the keep on keeping on when you have been so wounded. May God keep blessing you and give you strength to maintain a witness to the end for his glory.

  9. Well done thou good and faithful servant. Nowhere near as good coming from me, I know.

  10. Yes I am Mark P. Very much so. I almost shed a tear. Thank you John A. Prayer is certainly the answer given the enemy. And yes, God bless Bill.

  11. I agree with you of course about what you say about Jesus, but I guess my next hero is Paul, for he was so gracious to those who deserted and betrayed him even when he handed people over to “Satan it was ultimately for the sake of the salvation of their souls. I have not read anything that suggests he did that for the sake of personal revenge. And he was a sinner like me. It shows we can truly do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
    A thought I had also was that the reason why some people turn on us when all we want is to uphold biblical standards is that their courage has failed them as I know it often threatens to fail me, only I determine to stand on scripture and the help it promises through verses like Gal 2:22 and Rom 5:1 to 5. I know if it depended on my strength I would no longer be a christian. It helps me to pray for those people and takes the sting out of it a bit for I no longer take it personal.
    Thank you for this article Bill, we must determine to look to Jesus Heb 12:1 and look for those who are part of the faithful remnend. Even Paul still had LUke with him, though of course when death came, Jesus was his only rock, fortress hiding place and stronghold, his only salvation. and we know that is enough.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  12. I think that most Christians who’ve lived the life for a while have been let down by other Christians. But then, maybe we don’t always know who we’ve failed in some way. Complete forgiveness and confession are not choices but biblical commands.
    I’ve just chastised 2 ABC newsreaders for firstly, misusing the Lord’s name and secondly by stating that someone had the “hell scared out of them.” Hence I think that Christians need to be careful to use the word hell correctly.

  13. Thanks Bill. I’ve been working through a fair bit of this sort of thing of late, so your piece has been timely and challenging.
    God bless.

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