Passion: The Kiss of Betrayal
I still remember what it felt like to be stabbed in the back.
In 8th grade I was confronted by the girl I was “dating”. She told me that my best friend had just told her that I wanted to take our relationship to “a different level” and she was upset.
Here’s the thing – it was a complete lie! I never said any of it! But that didn’t change the fact that the handle of the blade that my best friend used was now sticking out of my back.
I’d been betrayed. I wanted to pummel him.
Confronting him, he ran away from me. Thus endeth the friendship.
And that hurt. Badly.
This was one of my best friends and now, that friendship was over.
As we grew older we became cordial, but there was no more hanging out, no more sleepovers, no more conversations in the hallways of school. The betrayal hurt too much.
Have YOU been betrayed?
Someone you were close to, who all of a sudden, out of nowhere, metaphorically attacked you like the shower scene in Psycho (eee-eee-eee!).
OK, maybe that’s a bit graphic, but betrayal is a fairly common plotline of the human story, isn’t it?
Too common, in fact. We’ve all been betrayed.
Maybe for you, like me, it was a friend. You were tight. You had each other’s back. Or so you thought.
Or maybe it was at work. Everything was going along fine. Then you had that meeting with your supervisor which put your future plans of retirement in jeopardy. You were a good employee. But that didn’t prevent their betrayal.
Or maybe it’s unfaithfulness in marriage. You committed your life to someone and BOOM– secrets.
Betrayal is so ugly and painful, how can you possibly move on from it? Or maybe the bigger question is: Can you?
How Can You Possibly Move On From Betrayal?
“While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:47-53)
We have the benefit of 2,000+ years of teaching and study on this particular story in Luke’s Gospel. We read how Judas leaned into his shadow side. But Judas had been one of Jesus’ closest followers. He had walked with Jesus every step of the way for the three years of Jesus’ public ministry, just like the other disciples. No one would have had any indication that Judas would do something so nefarious as to hand Jesus over to his accusers.
And the way he did it, with a kiss. This would be a little weird in our culture, but this was a norm in their day. This kiss would have been a sign of openness to Jesus and a reception to his message. It was a sign of friendship and intimacy. And that’s how Jesus is singled out.
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me,
Then I could bear it;
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me,
Then I could hide myself from him.
But it is you, a man my equal,
My companion and my familiar friend;
We who had sweet fellowship together
Walked in the house of God in the throng.
If Jesus can be betrayed by one of his closest friends, what makes us think that we should be exempt? It should come as no surprise when it happens to us.
People Hurt People.
Much of the time, the one doing the hurting genuinely doesn’t understand the harm they’re inflicting.
I think about the time I found out that I had a half-sister that I didn’t know about.
While in my mid-20s, and this woman called me claiming to be my sister.
I discovered that every single person in my family – including spouses – knew about this sister – except me.
My mom – and everyone else, for that matter – kept this family secret from me for over two-and-a-half decades.
But here’s the thing: after working through it, I don’t think it was some grand conspiracy.
My mom was simply doing what she thought was right and what she thought was best for everyone involved.
This doesn’t change the pain I felt, but it moved my betrayer from being a monster to being my mom, who needed the grace of Jesus just like me and just like you.
Only the light of grace can flood the darkness of betrayal.
Only grace has the power to drown out the darkness in any of our lives: the pain, the mistrust, the confusion, the anger.
You can’t just pretend it never happened. It’s only when we come to grips with our own need – the amazing grace being offered to us and the healing that comes when we receive it – only then can forgiveness and restoration begin. And once we’ve tasted and experienced the beauty of that grace, we can take slow, easy steps to extend that same grace to the person who has wronged us.
Here are 4 steps you can take today to heal from betrayal:
1. Acknowledge your pain.
It’s OK to say ouch. Not only to the offender, but also to yourself – and to God. Who has hurt you? Have you identified that pain, or have you just pushed it down inside, hoping it will go away? Don’t do that. Say ouch.
You may need to say ouch to a group or counselor who can help you find the healing you need.
2. Do not retaliate or seek revenge.
Fighting back can only escalate the situation. Jesus had the right and opportunity to fight back, and yet, much earlier in his ministry, he’d already said, “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also… Pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:39-44)
The disciple called Peter was the ultimate ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ personality. And what did he do there in the garden? He drew his sword and chopped off a soldier’s ear. Jesus’ response? “No more of this!” (Jesus announced). And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (vs 51)
Jesus, while he hung on the cross, cried out, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
When we don’t forgive, we think we are somehow hurting the offender, when in reality the only one we are hurting is ourselves.
“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Anne Lamott
When you refuse to forgive, you are simply allowing yourself to be eaten away from the inside.
To be clear, forgiveness in no way means that you have to be reconciled to your betrayer. In some instances, that is certainly possible, but in others, it just may be that the healthiest choice you can make is to sever that relationship. Shake the dust off of your feet with regards to that relationship. Forgiveness does not necessarily equal reconciliation.
4. Don’t shine the spotlight on the offense.
When Judas placed that kiss on Jesus’ face, Jesus didn’t rub it in. Jesus didn’t go back to their Last Supper together and remind Judas that he predicted this would happen. Jesus never closed the door to the mercy and grace.
In Matthew’s telling of this story, even in the midst of the betrayal, Jesus calls Judas ‘friend,’ not ‘betrayer,’ not ‘giant jerkface.’
So, if Jesus continues to offer grace all the way to the very end, who are we to rub the noses of our betrayers in their offense? God gives us tools to move forward, which is where true life is found – ahead of us, not behind. Don’t shine the spotlight on the offense.
Many of us today would consider ourselves to be Jesus-followers. We use the life and teachings of Jesus to guide our relationships and our interactions and our reactions. That Jesus returned betrayal with grace. He returned pain with love. He returned mercy when none was deserved. So, my question to you is, will we follow him in this?