Navigating Betrayal

This has been a summer of betrayals in a sense. I’ve experienced personal betrayal and disappointment, but I’ve also walked through it with several loved ones in various situations.

You, dear reader, have probably faced your own season of suffering because of betrayal.

What do we do with that?

How do you process the lies, deceit, and personal loss?

What is the response that Jesus calls us to?

I think we learn how to navigate betrayal by watching Jesus’ response to His own betrayal.

In the gospels, we see Jesus’ response to Judas in the garden. He receives Judas’ hypocritical kiss, He doesn’t lash out in anger or lay into him with a personal attack. Jesus clearly demonstrates the instructions we find in 1 Peter 3:9:

[box]“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”[/box]

But Judas wasn’t the only one to betray Jesus that dark night. The author of 1 Peter also betrayed Him, and he received from Jesus the action that he penned in this verse. Peter betrayed Jesus’ love, but do you remember Jesus’ response to that betrayal?

Let’s revisit that scene:

[box]Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.

The Lord turned and looked at Peter.

And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54–62)[/box]

Peter’s denial was a bitter betrayal against love.

But notice Jesus’ reaction. He didn’t curse Peter, didn’t return the betrayal with betrayal, didn’t slam or rebuke him with a short lecture, no, that wasn’t Jesus’ response at all.

Jesus “looked” at Peter.

Do you think it was a haughty “I told you so!” look?

An angry, “Thanks a lot!” look?

Maybe just a look of sheer disgust?

No, that’s not the “look” Jesus gave Peter. The Greek word that is used here for “look” is the same one that is used in the narrative from Mark 10:21 when Jesus “looked” at the rich young man who rejected His call to follow Him “all the way.”

Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

The word “look” that we find in both of these accounts can be translated:

“To look at in a sustained, concentrated way, i.e. with special ‘interest, love or concern’”

Jesus didn’t look at Peter in disgust. He wasn’t repulsed by him or flexing his superior spirituality. Jesus didn’t rise up in anger or throw any verbal blows. No, Jesus’ look was much different than what we might give to our betrayer.

Jesus looked at Peter with deep compassion.

Jesus loved Peter, He understood his weakness, and had compassion for him—even in the moment that Peter was betraying perfect love. This tangible expression of grace provided Peter with the understanding of the words he would later pen: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling . . .”

That one word, that significant action—compassion—holds far greater meaning than is commonly understood. I’m only scratching the surface in studying this beautiful virtue, but one thing I’m sure of, it is worthy of far more appreciation than it’s given. Compassion is powerful.

Compassion holds the key to navigating betrayal.

More on that tomorrow . . .

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/