The Soft Cruelty of the Crimson Smile: Betrayal and Faith

The Soft Cruelty of the Crimson Smile: Betrayal and Faith August 1, 2023

O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me–David, King of Israel (Psalm 3:2 NIV).

Cruelty Delivered With A Smile  

It was cruelty, deftly delivered. A smiling face veiled malicious intent. The warm embrace of a longstanding friendship was an opportunity for betrayal, and there was no warning. She delivered her words so carefully, so precisely that they were unnoticed until the conversation was over. One expected loyalty and kindness. The other delivered treachery and spite. A friendship was over. In truth, it had been over long ago, and only one of them knew. The smiling face and crimson lips had been spreading poison far and wide and had chosen this moment for the grand reveal. It was an act of betrayal as splendid as it was dreadful, and the only weapons were words.

We describe this malice with many names: treachery, disloyalty, perfidiousness, duplicity, and unfaithfulness. Betrayal, however, is its most well-known designation. Not just anyone can commit betrayal. Strangers cannot betray us. They do not have access. No, it is only someone we trust, someone who knows our secrets, someone whom we have no guard against who can betray us. Only a friend, a parent, a child, a spouse, a grandparent, or a beloved family member could betray us. We rarely see betrayal coming because of the nature of our relationship with the hidden enemy. Betrayal represents the end of the relationship or at least recognition that the relationship was not what we thought it was in the first place. Betrayal is almost always the loss of a relationship.

The Psychological Effects of Betrayal 

You Are Not Alone

David writes about the feeling of betrayal, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God as we walked about among the worshippers.” Ps 55:12-14.

The wounds of a betrayer are not limited to the immediate relationship or situation. Because betrayal is an attack hidden by our trust, it wounds our ability to trust in the future. Because trust is the ground of healthy relationships inability to trust prevents the ground from being fertile. Betrayal sows salt on the ground of trust. When betrayal strikes, it not only ends the relationship in question, it makes the target less likely to be able to have healthy relationships in the future. Betrayal inflicts a wound and may affect every relationship its target has for the rest of his or her life. There are few poisons with more power.

Jesus Knew Betrayal

Unfortunately, betrayal is a common human experience. Jesus knew betrayal also. On the night of His betrayal, Jesus and the Disciples gathered for one last meal. The atmosphere was ominous in the upper room. The Disciples listened with disbelief as Jesus spoke about denial, departure, and betrayal. Soon, Judas made his exit with the rest of the Disciples unaware as to why. The dastardly plot was in motion. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Judas was not a fringe Disciple. He was not a distant devotee angered because healing did not come or the blessings of the Kingdom of God had not suddenly arrived. No. Judas was among the trusted members of the Disciples. He was the treasurer. When Judas and the band of soldiers arrived at Jesus’ location on the Mount of Olives, a warm kiss of greeting was the signal of whom to arrest. He disguised his treachery in a kiss of greeting; a longstanding friendship provided a mask. Betrayal found a disguise as it always does.

The thing that gets me about this story is Jesus, knowing Judas’ betrayal was rapidly unfolding, treated Judas no differently than the other disciples. If you have ever been betrayed, you know how difficult that must have been. Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully human. Jesus felt the sting of betrayal long before the nails pierced Jesus’ skin and may have been almost as painful. Was Jesus angry? Was He hurt? The Scripture is silent on the matter. What the Scriptures do indicate is Jesus washed Judas’ feet along with the rest of the Disciples. That act is unimaginable.

When Someone Betrays You

When someone betrays us, the best thing we can do is reach out to God because God is faithful. The Hebrew word Hesed, used 245 in the Old Testament, is the most common description of God in the Hebrew Bible. It can be translated as lovingkindness, mercy, goodness, and faithful love. Sometimes it means all of these attributes at the same time. By the repeated use of this word, the Scriptures want us to know that God will never be unfaithful to us. God always keeps His promises to us. His faithfulness sustains us. While many people have proven to be untrustworthy, the one who trusts in God will not be ultimately disappointed.

How to Start Healing

If someone has betrayed you, there is something else to know. God is at work in your life and your circumstances. God is in the process of healing your soul. While you may not believe you will ever be able to trust again, with God’s grace, prayer, the help of those who love you, and even the help of a counselor, you can learn to be trusting and vulnerable again. The poison to the soil of your relationships is not eternal.

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Layne Wallace is a pastor, philosopher, theologian, writer, husband, and father. Currently the senior pastor at Rosemary Baptist Church, Layne has earned the MDiv, DMin, and PhD. He is the author of Karl Barth’s Concept of Nothingness: A Critical Examination, and Loving God in the Darkness. He has also been published in Pharos Journal of Theology, the Truett Pulpit, Good Faith Media, Baptist News Global, and the Biblical Recorder. When Layne is not preaching or writing, he may be found teaching, speaking, playing his guitar, or spending time with his family. You can read more about the author here.

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