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Posts Tagged ‘betrayal’


At our most recent Presbytery meetings, one of our pastors was handing out some free copies of a little book he’d recently read. That book was Hit by Friendly Fire: What to Do When Fellow Believers Hurt You by Michael Milton.

This is a very short book, which is likely a good thing when you are struggling with betrayal and deep wounds. It is a simple book as well. It is laid out to help you quickly deal with an all to common problem. As I noted in my sermon yesterday, the church is a community of saints AND a community of sinners. We will hurt each other, sometimes deeply. Pastors sometimes not that sheep bite, and they do. The closer you are to that particular sheep, the more it hurts.

In many ways this little book is an explanation of a text in Zechariah 13.

And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’ he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’

Zechariah’s experience as a prophet was intended to be typical of prophets and typological of Jesus Himself. Those who bring the Word of the Lord will not always be welcome among their people. They will be beaten and battered. Many were even put to death due to their unpopular message (sin and salvation has never been very popular). Jesus was rejected by His own people, cursed and reviled, given over to death at the hands of the Romans.

Leaders, particularly pastors, can draw the ire of church members because they have to say unpopular things. At times our friends, while not harming us physically, can inflict damage that hampers our ministry.

“After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, not oaks.” Richard Sibbes

Milton notes 3 counseling sessions that had 1 thing in common; betrayal. When we are hurt, we can often respond by hurting others. We have to be wise and careful. It reveals our great need for Jesus.

“Without drinking from the divine draught of Christ’s very person, we become dry and graceless in our souls, and therefore we have no reserves to draw upon when conflict arises.”

It can be difficult for us to move on, as he notes with the metaphor of the stopped clock. We get stuck. Milton brings us to Joseph who connected his pain to God. His suffering was not accidental (nihilistic or chaos). This is not to blame God to be recognize God has good purposes in bringing difficulty into our lives, including the difficulty of betrayal.

Seeing the connection with God, we can then pick up our cross. Jesus’ suffering is a pattern for our lives, as well as His saving work. The Christian life is one of self-denial, and this is one of the key times that self-denial is necessary. First the cross and then the crown. Christ’s crown came in the context of betrayal. Ours too. It is not an excuse for self-pity and a victim’s mentality. It is the realization that I am called to die to self and follow Jesus. Like Jesus, I’m to entrust myself to the Father and continue to do good even as others line me up in their sights.

He then advises us to take off our crown. We are not in control. God is the Sovereign. It is not ours to avenge, not ours to repay. We then go to our own Gethsemene. It does sound a bit backwards since Jesus was in Gethsemene before taking up His cross. The key part of Gethsemene is “not my will but Thine be done.”

“Note carefully: if there is to be resurrection- a new life to emerge from the pain, the betrayal, the hurtful words- there must be a crucifixion; and if there is to be a crucifixion- by the Father for the good of many- then there must be a Gethsemene moment when you say, ‘Not my will but yours.'”

Just as the Father didn’t abandon His Son to the grave, He will not abandon us in our suffering either. We will be raised up, renewed. He will transform us by the pain.

He ends with an encouragement to not give up on the church. He notes a personal experience as a newer Christian when he walked into a church fight without realizing it. The pastor’s adult daughter encouraged him to not give up on God’s people. We are not all we long to be, nor do all we wish we’d do. We still live in Romans 7, and so does everyone else in the Church.

This is a helpful little book. He says enough, and doesn’t drown us with words. He gets to the point.

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It has been awhile since we’ve read a book together, aside from the Bible. We didn’t read Wonder together, but all of us except the youngest read it in a short period of time.

Apparently they all want to see the movie and wanted to read the book first. I wondered, why? Books are typically better than movies adapted from them.

A number of schools are having their students read the book. Perhaps that will help kids from having the traumatic memories that made this a difficult book for me to read.

I read it while flying cross country. It is a quick read. But it was an emotional read for me because it tapped into a number of old wounds.

Wonder is about a number of things. The central character is Auggie, a young boy who has a confluence of genetic disorders rendering his face deformed, even after 20+ surgeries. It tells this story from a variety of perspectives as many of the main characters get to tell their side of the story. Each section has a different narrator. Except the parents. You never see their side of things.

As the parent of a child with “special needs” who has had 10 surgeries so far, I can identify with some of what they experience. His issues were not all consuming like Auggie’s. But you certainly feel protective. As my son continues with speech therapy, I am aware that many kids may not understand him right away and his circle of friends is very small. And he has a protective big sister, like Auggie.

After years of being homeschooled, Auggie goes to “real” school at a smaller prep school near the family’s home (this will make home schooling parents like myself sigh- since she seems to express an common prejudice). The book is about this year of transition for Auggie, his sister who started high school, and the people in their lives.

The story reminds us that those who seem to have it all together often don’t. Those whose life seems to be a mess often do have it pretty together.

Auggie and Via’s parents aren’t perfect. There are some arguments with kids, and each other. In some ways they have been consumed by Auggie’s needs. But they are kind people. Other kids who come into contact with them find this family a healing environment. You don’t have to be a perfect family to be a welcoming family. Many of these children had problems at home and needed that healing environment.

The story is about the challenges of relationships among children. The betrayals, pressure to be popular, power plays and more. Some children flourished thru the difficulties (even after initial failure), while others crashed and burned. It is about how prejudices can control us so that we miss out on great people. Even worse, so that we can harm well-meaning people.

It can make you think about the people who pulled away from you. Maybe something was going on that had nothing to do with you. You hurt. But there are things in people’s lives that drive decisions of which we know nothing. It can help the parents of kids with medical issues to remember there is more to life than medical issues. My son isn’t his medical issues. They affect him, and his relationships, but he is so full of life. It is what his eyes hinted at when others only saw his cleft lip. It invites us into the wonder.

In some ways this seems to be a “God-haunted” novel. There are quotes from the Chronicles of Narnia. But there is also a quote by Confucious. It is a book filled with longing, but not really pointing outside ourselves to the key to kindness, love and hope. Similar to the principal’s speech it settles for “political correctness”, or so it seems.

I recommend the novel, just not on a cross-country flight, especially if you have experienced many of these hard times in middle school.

This trailer indicates that the movie took some liberties with the book. They changed some timelines and conflated events. But we’ll see it soon.

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Who wouldn’t want to read John Calvin on The Secret Providence of God? Well, it depends what kind of book you are looking to read.

The subject is certainly an interesting one. The caveat is that the book is polemical in nature. He’s not simply asserting what he believes on this subject so you and I can be edified. He’s responding to “charges” made by a former student/associate of his, Sebastian Castellio. The editor’s (Paul Helm) indicates some of their prior relationship. But in the final pages of the  book Calvin gives us more information about their relationship. This book reeks of betrayal. Polemics and betrayal make for some bombastic language at times. It may also explain why this book is not as clear as I’d hoped at times (but perhaps this was me having been online too much, rotting my brain, or too focused on the good cigars I’d often smoke while reading this). I read this book intermittently over the course of a few months. Far too long for a book of its size (122 pages), but I’ve been busy with other matters.

All this to say, I’d be careful to whom I recommend this book. I would recommend this for more mature Christians who have an interest in Calvin because they’ve already read his more popular works. It would be of interest to students of the Reformation and theological methods. I would not recommend this to someone struggling with the doctrine of providence or unfamiliar with how to do theology.

Helm’s introduction informs us that this was, in fact, Calvin’s third response to his fellow Frenchman on the subject. I suspect his frustrating was mounting as would mine. They met in Strasbourg. Castellio’s strength seemed to be languages, and Calvin appears to have taken a liking to the man. For a time Castellio was rector of the College of Geneva. It didn’t last long. First, Castellio denied the canonicity of the Song of Songs, calling it a lewd book. Then Calvin worked with him on a translation of the Bible into French. They differed greatly, and argued, about their approaches to translation. As the relationship soured, Castellio resigned from the college. He seems to have accepted at least some of Servetus’ writings, for later in this volume Calvin calls Servetus his master (this could be figuratively since Calvin did consider him a heretic in the body of his response). But the execution of Servetus by the Genevan authorities led to Castellio’s personal campaign against them, and Calvin. He was not open about this, often using a pen name instead of his own.

“The work provides us with a small window onto the boisterous, argumentative years of the Reformation, not in this case to the main conflicts but to the skirmishes initiated by some of its lesser characters, such as Pighius and Servetus and, of course, Castellio.” (pp. 18)

Helm notes that Calvin was generally gentle and accommodating to those he considered open or friendly to his views. “But he is pitiless and unflattering toward those such as Castellio who openly crossed him.” Castellio, on the other hand, seems less concerned with clear theological thinking as to ridicule and misrepresent Calvin. His goal seems to be to repeatedly jab his finger in Calvin’s eye. If they lived next to each other in Bowling Green, one thinks he’s blindside Calvin and stomp him when Calvin got off his lawn mower.

“To Calvin’s intense irritation, here is a man, once a friend and follower, who is not impatient of the carefully crafted subtleties that Calvin sometimes uses to advance his position, and above all contemptuous of the God whose interests Calvin sought to advance. Even their Protestantism provides them with little common ground.” (pp. 19-20)

Helm then moves into some theological analysis of the book. He critiques Castellio’s method. The antagonist blurs theological distinctions so that he accuses Calvin of equal ultimacy regarding God’s decrees of salvation and sin/reprobation. Calvin follows a typical medieval view of the two wills of God: his secret will (decrees) and his revealed will (declarations & commands). Calvin depends heavily on Augustine in this volume, the only other author he quotes. Castellio’s method also relies heavily on reason while Calvin’s on revelation. Castellio sets reason above revelation. While Calvin obviously uses reason, he understands it to be bound to revelation. There are limits to the powers of reason as well as things not revealed to us. He invokes Deut. 29:29 (as any student of Calvin’s would guess). His introduction is helpful in understanding how each participant will engage in this disputation. Helm also notes, at the end, how Arminius’ own formulations are dependent upon Castellio’s. He built, as Muller calls it, a theology of creation, far more popular than Castellio’s. But both rejected Calvin’s theology of grace.

The book proper begins with a series of Articles, 14, Castellio generates (better, fabricates) from Calvin’s writings. He presents as series of strawmen arguments since they bear little to no resemblance to what Calvin actually wrote. He misrepresents Calvin. What is unclear is how much of this he actually believed and how much he purposely twisted just to tick Calvin off. As he explains these articles you do find instances of confusing logic, conflation of ideas, failure to make distinctions and more really bad theological method. Here are some example of him tying himself in knots (as I noted in the margins of my copy):

“If God wills sin, then the Devil does not will sin. That is to say, the idea that the Devil is God is a complete contradiction. If God wills sin, he loves sin’ and if he loves sin, he hates righteousness.” (pp. 45)

“… if the (secret) will of God often contends with his command, how can it be known when he wills or when he does not will what he commands? … For instance, if God commands me not to commit adultery and yet wills that I commit adultery, and yet I ought not to commit adultery, then I ought to do what is contrary to his will.” (pp. 45)

“Your false God is slow to mercy and quick to wrath. He created the largest part of the world for perdition.” (pp. 52)

“But the God of Calvin is the father of lies who evidently governs sometimes by what he says and at other times by his secret promptings.” (pp. 53)

He’s trying to make Calvin’s understanding of God appear to be a moral monster, and the Christian life not practicable because he can’t make simple distinctions. How you think matters. And this is some seriously stinking thinking. He also appears to operate from a denial of depravity. This is an unstated presupposition of his that seems to infect his reasoning leading to a number of faulty conclusions.

“… if God prompts perverse affections and then he flies into a rage, he hates the same people before the perverse affections arise, for to prompt perverse affections is the work of hatred. Therefore, he hates the innocent. For men are innocent before the perverse affections arise.” (pp. 50)

Castellio also attacks Calvin’s “students” as contentious and sinful. He puts all his arguments into the mouths of Calvin’s opponents while affirming them as personally unanswerable. There is one more claim that his “disciples” depend more upon Calvin “than upon reason.” Here he affirms his view of reason over and above Scripture, and denies that Calvin’s doctrines arise from Scripture.

The main body of the book is Calvin’s point by point response to Castellio. He works through the articles. This divides the book into readable chunks for busy people. Much of Calvin’s argument is that his doctrines are in fact derived for Scripture. He places Scripture above (not against) reason. Castellio argues for common sense, common sense, common sense => theology from below, subject to our judgment. Man is the arbiter of truth.

“But if you allow no other form of reasoning except what an earthly man recognizes, then by such arrogance and disdain you deny yourself access to the very doctrine of knowledge of which is only possible to someone with a reverential spirit. … Everything loses its authority and grace if it does not satisfy your reason.” (pp. 61)

Calvin also notes that he has already answered these objections three or four times thus far. He notes that these articles falsely represent his views. He notes his dependence on Augustine who also faced similar stubborn objections. Castellio frequently didn’t cite Calvin’s works. When he quotes Calvin, he takes him out of context. Some of the accusations he makes are similar to those that Paul faced and answered in places like Romans 9-11. Calvin’s point? “You aren’t arguing against me, but the Scriptures when we examine the tensions in Scripture” is what he’d say. In terms of those tensions and distinctions Calvin asks:

“Truly God invites all men to repentance; therefore, all might return to the road where he offers pardon. Now, what we must here consider is whether the conversion that God requires is according to man’s free choice or is a truly unique gift from God. Therefore, insofar as all men are exhorted to repent, the prophet rightly denies that God wills the death of the sinner. Why does God not convert everyone to himself equally? The reason is in the hands of God’s secret will.” (pp. 71)

He notes that Castellio also has to answer these great questions.

“This knot is also for you to untie. Since no one comes near to God unless the secret influence of the Spirit draws him, why are not all men without discrimination drawn, if God wills all to salvation? For from his discrimination it certainly is to be concluded that God has a particular secret way in which many are excluded from salvation.” (pp .73)

Calvin also unearths some of his other presuppositions: “Nor will you accept that the causes of wrath are in man himself” (pp. 74). Castellio rejects the depravity of men as the root of God’s judgment and man’s temptation to sin. He espouses a weak view of foreknowledge, separating God’s “power and his prescience” (pp. 75). He is judging God by feeble sense, to quote Cowper’s hymn on the subject. Calvin warns Castellio of dualism.  He reminds him that God uses primary and secondary causes (pp. 191). He schools him in the doctrine of concurrence- two or more persons willing the same action but for different reasons (God’s being good and Satan’s and men’s being evil).

There are moments you have to stop and think (especially if you’ve been distracted by your children) to sort out the argument. He will trace out Castellio’s argument at times so keeping the train of thought is essential.

He responds to the questioning of Calvin and disciples’ character with observations about Castellio’s.

“When I fed you in my home, no man had ever appeared to be more proud and more deceitful or more destitute than yo. Whoever does not perceive you to be an imposter and a cynic devoted to shamelessness, and a buffoon barking against piety, they are absolutely without judgment.” (pp. 118)

“But it must certainly be that you were too dull, because you were not able to understand what I have taught you, both in the familiarity of my own home and also what you heard when I so often preached in the public assembly.” (pp. 119)

“… you boast among your followers that study is empty and frivolous (the same study that is employed in philosophy, logic, and even theology) in order that you might gain more disciples for yourself. … You, on the other hand, request that untutored men who despise all learning and are inflated only with the breath of arrogance appear in public so that they may audaciously make judgments concerning the mysteries of heaven.” (pp. 120-121)

You see here the sense of betrayal that drives his harsh words. Still, these words are mild by some of today’s standards. We see a picture of Castellio as something of a fundamentalist Arminian. He was anti-intellectual; anti-scholarship in addition to exalting human reason. He was also, in Calvin’s estimation, a heretic. He didn’t just disagree, but held to views that Calvin put him outside the bounds of the Church. And so he ends:

“May God restrain you, Satan. Amen.” (pp. 122)

There is much here that is important to learn in terms of doing theology. There is some here that we should likely avoid in terms of doing polemics. We should continue to speak the truth in love. Lay out presuppositions to the light of day for evaluation. Clearly make proper distinctions. Reconcile the tensions found in Scripture instead of just proof-texting. Bur resist the temptation to denigrate the other person. Truth in the face of lies (even half-truths), and love in the face of animosity. I believe Calvin did the former but at times failed in the latter. May God have mercy on us all.

 

 

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Last night I spent the two and a half hours watching The Revenant. It was a bit plodding, and at times it was clearly brutal, and confusing. It was also oddly theological.

It begins with an attack on a trapping party in a northern wilderness in the 1820’s. You aren’t sure why they are being attacked, but as the story unfolds, it seems to be connected with a missing young Souix woman. Or that could be a different tribe of Native Americans that comes along. Hence my on-going confusion. Little did I realize that this search for Powaqa was so central to the story line as Glass keeps coming close to being killed by this driven group of men.

Glass was a tracker and woodsman with a Native American son. He was the guide for the (illegal?) trapping party which seeks to make its way back to their fort after the attack.  It is along the way that Glass encounters an angry momma bear who mauls him horribly.

This is the other key event of the movie. Captain Henry, who values Glass, returns to the fort while leaving the nearly dead Glass in the care of 3 other party members, including Glass’s teenage son. Fitzgerald is a man who fears death, and the Native Americans who he believes are on their trail. Unable to move under his own power, Glass is slowing them down. He wants to abandon Glass and digs a grave. Glass’s son refuses to leave his father. Glass is able to watch but unable to stop as Fitzgerald kills his son, buries Glass alive and leaves. He deceives the other young man who didn’t witness all of this.

Glass pulls himself out of the grave, driven by his thirst for vengeance. Ans so he crawls toward the fort using only his arms through the frozen wilderness. Eventually he is able to walk and continues his trek despite only having a canteen and the bear skin. He faces the threats of cold, animals and the party searching for Pawaqa.

Amazingly he avoids death and comes across a young Pawnee man eating raw buffalo meat. He receives mercy from this man whose tribe was killed by the Souix. He is moving south to find more Pawnee. The subject of revenge comes up, as you imagine it might from a man who is only alive to gain revenge. “Revenge is the Creator’s.” I’m not sure from whence his notion came, but it is an echo of Romans 12.

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

The two men travel together as the Pawnee cares for the still healing Glass. That is until he stumbles upon a French group who kill him while Glass sleeps during a storm. Glass discovers these Frenchmen have a young Native American woman. He decides to assist her while she is being raped (yet again). While they are distracted by Glass who takes the Pawnee’s horse to escape, Pawaqa is able to escape. In the distance Glass hears the battle as the Souix gain their vengeance on the Frenchmen who abducted Pawaqa. Glass, however, had left his distinctive canteen behind.

The lone remaining Frenchman has this canteen when he stumbles into the fort. This prompts Captain Henry to gather a search party to find his friend. While he is gone, Fitzgerald steals the Captain’s money and literally heads to the hills. After discovering this, Henry and Glass pursue Fitzgerald into the mountains.

It is as Glass is on the brink of gaining his revenge that two things happen. First, he sees the Souix hunting party. Second, he remembered that “Revenge is God’s.” He pushes Fitzgerald into the water and the current takes him to the Souix who kill him.  As the Souix ride by Glass, you see Pawaqa which explains why Glass is the only white man they don’t kill.

What it was over I thought “God must be a group of angry Souix”.

As I thought more, I was reminded that God often used “the nations” to bring judgment on His people. He used the Assyrians to judge the northern kingdom. It was equally ungodly Babylon who was used to judge Judah.

In Romans 13 (don’t forget, the chapter divisions are note original) we see that the State bears the power of the sword to bring His vengeance upon the wicked.

In The Revenant we see this Souix hunting or war party as the instrument of vengeance upon a variety of wrong-doers. While uncertain about the original battle, clearly the Frenchmen (murders, woman-stealers and rapists) and Fitzgerald (murder, betrayal and deceit).

24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 1 Timothy 5

Sometimes what seems like chance or coincidence is God working to bring the truth to light, to bring people to judgment. C.S. Lewis notes that “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Perhaps The Revenant is more than vaguely theological, but theologically driven. For eyes that see it is, as God works through this series of coincidences to bring a number of wicked men to judgment. This judgment was not “traditional”, but in disputed territory it can come in unexpected ways. And when the legal authority is part of the problem it may come in unexpected ways.

In the words of Steve Brown, “you think about that.”

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I was not a big comic book fan.  But I usually enjoy movies based on comic books.  I suppose too much is lost emotionally with drawings rather in motion pictures.  I’m thinking more of the shifting emotions.  Or I am a snob.

I’m not a big Iron Man fan, nor was I anticipating the movie.  Robert Downy Jr.?  Not even remotely a draw for me.  But Jon Faverau (Mikey from Swingers, director of Elf) is the director (as well as pulling a cameo as Tony Stark’s driver) and the trailers made it look interesting.  The initial reviews have been pretty good.  So I plunked down my $6.50 and enjoyed a matinee.

I’m glad I did.  As the first in what the producers hope is a series, this movie introduced the character and set the stage for all that is to come.  Robert Downy Jr. was a good casting move for this movie.  You buy into him as Tony Stark- a womanizing, smart-mouthed man prone to the excesses that his incredible wealth affords him.  His family has been in the defense industry since World War II.  He is an engineering genius.  His parents died while he was a teen.  His father’s friend Obediah ran the business until Tony joined him when he turned 21.

You really don’t like Tony.  He’s arrogant and a user of people.  But all of that changes when he is captured by terrorists in Afghanistan.  The religious aspects are complete ignored.  What the movie focuses on is that they are using weapons manufactured by his company!  Despite patriotic intentions, his weapons systems are being used by aggressors not just for defense.  Stuck in the cave for 3 months he has an epiphany.

But he’s trapped in a cave.  He is recovering from heart surgery after shrapenal from one of his weapons injures him in the attack.  The also-imprisoned doctor uses a magnet to keep the remaining shrapenal from going into his heart.  There he must build his latest weapons system for the warlord.  Instead, Tony makes a technological discovery and also creates a metal suit with weapons to make his way to freedom.

He succeeds in escaping and decides to develop his original design.  Back home people don’t understand the change in mindset that has overtaken him.  It is a picture of repentance (without the religious component).  His whole reason for living, and how he lives, changes.  He is, essentially, a new man.  He tries to right the wrongs of his past.  Unfortunately for him, there is a betrayer who tries to destoy him.

There aren’t as many battle scenes as I’d like, but they fit the story line.  The focus is on character development.  Tony comes face-to-face with his personal emptiness, confessing to his personal assistant (played well by Gwyneth Paltrow): “You are all I have.”  Due to her attentiveness to his compulsive nature, he is all she has too.  A very different looking Jeff Bridges plays Obediah.  He looks like he’s put on some muscle (thicker, but not fat), grew a goatee and shaved his head.

The ending was not as good as the rest of the movie.  It was a letdown in some ways.  But this was a good summer blockbuster.  But it is not mindless.  It has themes of repentance, redemption, betrayal, sacrifice etc.  He can only survive because of a power outside of himself.  Not quite a new heart, but pretty intriguing.  The ‘new’ Tony Stark uses his wealth and genius to help the poor and oppressed, not for his own excess.  These are things that a Christian can affirm, and should be doing.  But the ‘old’ Tony will pose some uncomfortable moments for parents (no nudity, but some implied sexual immorality).  In the context you see that his sin does not satisfy. 

Overall, Jon Faverau did a good job with the pacing of the movie.  There was enough humor to keep it from being too serious.  Much of this takes place while he builds the high tech suit at his home workshop.  The soundtrack also had lots of hard rock, but Black Sabbath’s Iron Man doesn’t show up until the credits.  The soundtrack fit the movie, and that’s what you are looking for in a soundtrack.

This is the first good movie of the summer blockbuster season.

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(circa 2000, interacting with a section from the book I mention)

If you are in relationship with people, whether at home, church or work, it is impossible to avoid betrayal.

“Essentially, betrayal is the breaking of an implied or stated commitment of care” (Dan Allender, The Healing Path).

This means that betrayal involves a broken commitment to guard your well-bImage result for the healing patheing.  It can come from a friend who shares your darkest secret.  Or a co-worker who steals your work.  Betrayal opens the door for us to grow in faith, if we do not avoid all it brings with it.

Betrayal comes on different levels.  The damage caused by a break of confidence is less than that caused by a parent who abuses their child emotionally or sexually.  But the relationship intended to bring blessing has now brought harm.

The betrayal does not remain a private affair, but soon spreads to the community.  There is no way to keep a fight between two people isolated– others inevitably become involved.  This could be as simple as hearing one’s complaint, or as complicated as taking up one’s cause against the other to repay the damage.

Betrayal forces us to make choices.  We can deny the damage done to us.  Many choose this path.  Others recognize the damage, and use it as an excuse to justify their sins against the perpetrator.  The best option is to recognize the damage, and then marvel at the faithfulness of God in contrast to our instability.

What damage is done?  First, our sense of identity is taken apart.  As relational creatures, our identity is composed of our various relationships.  When one is broken, it casts a shadow of doubt upon the rest of them.  Will they betray me too?  This doubt eats away our relationships because the life we thought existed, doesn’t.

Our initial response is to blame ourselves.  We should have seen it coming.  Or perhaps we failed first, prompting this person’s sin.  We enter a period of self contempt or blame.  I was there when (an ex-)girlfriend left.  “Am I so stupid that I couldn’t see this coming?  The signs were all there, why did I give her my heart?”

Image result for fish called wanda revengeFor better or worse, we do not stop there.  We soon move to believing that someone must pay.  We desire revenge for the wrongs done to us.  I always think of Kenny, the stuttering thief from A Fish Called Wanda, clearly crying “REVENGE!” as he drives a steamroller over his tormentor Otto.

Since our hearts are deceptive, we do not always direct our rage at the one who hurt us in the first place.  It could be easy for me to make my next girlfriend pay for the wrongs of past girlfriends.  Severely abused people often don’t recognize how they harm those around them, or themselves.  This is particularly true with sexual abuse.  The victims often become perpetrators themselves, or destroy themselves through eating disorders or promiscuity.  The initial betrayal is not an excuse of later sinful choices, but we begin to understand why.  Then we address the broken parts of a person to bring restoration as well as repentance.

Then, at last, comes numbness.  We no longer care.  This is where most of us end up.  Life, so to speak, goes on hold.  We stop caring about just about everything.  “Yeah, sure.  Whatever you want.”  The pain overwhelms us, and we go on autopilot.  We stop living, but not functioning.

It is here that we lose faith.  God no longer seems faithful and true.  We forget the abundance of times He has been good to us.  Our legitimate desires go unmet, and our faith shrinks.  We enter into autopilot with God as well.  We don’t stray outwardly, but our hearts are numb towards him.  We become legalistic and distant.  “God failed me.  It doesn’t pay to pursue him.”  We become stuck; powerless and ambivalent.

This is the place where God invites us to see our idolatry.  We expect others to be what only God can be for us.  No one, and nothing, has the ability to perfectly meet our needs (much less our desires).  When forgiveness can’t be extended, I must recognize I have not given them the freedom to fail.  I expect them to be perfect– and only God is perfect.  I have also made God into something He is not.  He does not exist to meet my every desire.  He’s no genie in the bottle to grant my wishes.  I worship a false god, which is also idolatry.  In my idolatry, I make myself an enemy of God (James 4:1-4).

I never ceased to be amazed at how God orchestrates circumstances to reveal myself to me.  It happened on the way back from GA.  A “quick” stop for gas turned into a nightmare.  I was angry and petty.  The next day I could see just how demanding I was.  I saw my need to having things go the way I want them to go.  In short, I was humbled by a glimpse of my utter sinfulness.  This was my invitation to repent of my idolatry.  Part of me hates that I am powerless to “keep” a girlfriend (whatever that means), prevent an elder from resigning, etc.  My longing to be god is exposed.

This is good!  For God gives grace to the humble, but opposes the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5, 6).  This humbling brings me to the throne of grace, where I can find mercy, strength and grace from a faithful God.  One faithful enough to wound me and then heal me.  I walk what Allender calls the “healing path”, the road of sanctification.

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