The crucifixion was history’s ultimate injustice. The world’s only innocent man was falsely accused and executed in the most brutal way.
But even before the nails pierced Jesus’ hands and feet, Christ faced a cascade of betrayals.
Pardon my blunt language. Before he was nailed he was screwed…
- by the religious authorities, who were jealous of Christ’s power and popularity.
- by Judas, his treasurer, a man who loved money.
- by ten other disciples, who abandoned him in his hour of need.
- by Pilate, a craven political appointee who feared losing his position.
- by the crowds, who just days before had taken to the streets to sing his praises.
- by the Roman soldiers who abused him.
- by the thief who hung next to him and hurled insults at him.
- and by God, who turned his back on his only begotten son.
I understand the theological reasoning behind Jesus’ death – he paid the price for the sins of the world. He took the punishment we all deserve.
But I’ve often wondered why he had to suffer such a horrid end. Couldn’t his death have been cleaner, more surgical? And why so many betrayals?
As I get older I’m beginning to see the lesson: Christ was showing us how peace is made.
In my fifty-plus years I’ve faced many betrayals. I’ve been falsely accused. I’ve been mistreated. People who were supposed to protect my family and me turned on us.
And after each betrayal I’ve faced a choice. I could retaliate. I could shut the betrayer out of my life. I could retreat into self-protection and stop building new relationships.
This was my family’s M.O. for generations. My grandmother didn’t speak to her sisters for 40 years. In turn, my father cut my grandmother off from my sister and me for seven years. I met my paternal grandfather once – for three hours, when I was 11 years old.
The human response to betrayal is to retaliate. To withdraw. To simmer in your own righteous anger. Because after all — you’re right.
Jesus was “righter” than any man who ever lived. Furthermore, he could have put a stop to the injustice that befell him. Yet he not only allowed these betrayals – he asked God to forgive his betrayers.
We live by the motto: once burned, twice shy. This was my creed — until I met Jesus.
But even after following Christ for nearly 40 years, I am ashamed to admit that my first instinct is to retaliate when I’m wronged. I still tend to withdraw when someone hurts me. I constantly justify myself to myself.
My heart is still too small.
Even after four decades of walking with Christ I still don’t understand that betrayal is normal – and for the Christian, it’s formative.
I claim to be a follower of Jesus. Why am I surprised when I experience the same things he did?
Lately I’ve started looking down at my palm whenever I feel betrayed. I look for a scar. Seeing none, I give thanks to God that I have not yet been betrayed in full measure.
I’m not saying you should play the martyr – or seek out suffering. Jesus pleaded earnestly for a way out. It’s right stand up for yourself – especially if you’re being serially abused. Crimes should always be reported to the authorities.
No, I’m referring to those everyday betrayals that are a part of life. Relationships gone sour. Business deals wrecked. Marital woes. A friend or relative who says something hurtful.
How will you handle it – as Jesus did? Or will you retreat into a cocoon of anger and self-protection?
Betrayals will come. You’re going to feel like you’ve been screwed. By a friend. By your wife. By the government. By your kids. By someone at church. By a boss or co-worker.
There will be no peace in your heart, in your family or on this earth until you learn to handle betrayal the way Jesus did.
Anticipate it. Feel the pain. And forgive.
David Murrow is the author of the bestselling book, Why Men Hate Going to Church. David’s books have sold more than 175,000 copies in 12 languages. He speaks to groups around the world about Christianity’s persistent gender gap. He lives in Alaska with his wife of more than 30 years, professional silk artist Gina Murrow. Learn more about David at his Web site, www.churchformen.com, or join the conversation on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/churchformen. Don’t forget to share this page by clicking on the links below, or scroll down and leave a comment (right below those annoying ads that pay for this blog).