Wounds, Rejection, & Betrayal; Setbacks, or Opportunities?
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” Jesus prayed, on the cross. Was that crux moment possibly the ultimate picture of the core of God’s great heart? We are somewhat familiar with the ordeal of the passion- at least head knowledge wise. The beating, the crown of thorns piercing His scalp, the whipping that cut through both skin and muscle, carrying the weight of the cross, and, finally, the pegs put through His wrists and feet we relate to- at least in theory.
The great Lamb/Lion heart of Jesus looked beyond that present suffering, however. In that moment of unimaginable physical torment Jesus went beyond the conceivable. He, who innocently suffered as a willing victim on our behalf, made known His radical incomparable heart of mercy. This unrivaled picture of mercy in the midst of innocent suffering proves that in all things Christ always conquered. Sin (ours) and death (the wages of our sin) did not triumph over Him. He was never a victim, but always a champion.
All of which leads us to a second question; do we need to grow to the point where when we personally experience wounds, rejection, and/or betrayal we see those moments of pain from the standpoint of a victim, or as that of a champion. Specifically, when friends, loved ones, or co-workers in Christ turn against us do we perceive these occasions as opportunities for extending love, or merely fall into the mindset of a hapless victim?
In the overall sense the word “church” refers to the eternal collection of the majestic and redeemed ones God refers to as His children. Tozer referred to the eternal church as a “grand army of fragrant saints”. Experientially, however, life among the saints often proves to be quite a painful ordeal rather than a continuous experience of joy. For some the good news of the gospel becomes the bad news of a toxic church life. The problem lies in the fact that “hurting people hurt people”.
Metaphorically church life is a collective journey along the highway of healing, wholeness, and sanctification. Despite best intentions, however, we sometimes experience a bit of jostling and bumping on that road. Even worse sometimes we are even deliberately elbowed and shouldered out of someone’s way that fears we may be a hindrance to his or her progress. What’s immeasurably worse, however, is when we find we are on the one doing the pushing and shoving!
To Bless, or to Curse?
The fact that the Body of Christ overall is rift with church splits, division, and abuse is more than obvious. Recently while speaking at a conference I spent time fellowshipping with a pastor who somehow has survived eight different church splits. He reckons it to be miraculous that he’s still in ministry without any apparent bitterness, or anger, weighing heavy on his heart. A pastor I was with two weeks later on the other side of the continent has recently experienced his best friend in ministry inadvertently causing his church to fracture and severing the years of friendship. As well, I would hazard a guess that, to at least to a degree, the sudden growth of some new churches is more due to relational discontent among existing churches than due to a fresh work of evangelism. Yet when Christ experienced personal betrayal by one whom He had shared His bread with His heart expression was one of mercy and reconciliation rather than rejection and anger.
It is one thing to love and bless those around us when they live up to our expectations. What about when they fail us miserably to the point of betrayal, wounding, and/or rejection?
Hurt, obviously, is painful- be it physical or emotional. The question before us, however, is do we allow whatever present pain of rejection, or betrayal, we may face to dominate our thinking and responses, or do we allow the unconditional security and significance the Father heart of God grants us to inspire us? When we look to the model of Jesus then we must take into account that He, “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despied the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”. (Hebrews 12.2)
Jesus instructed (not encouraged) us to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”. (Luke 6.28) Likewise Paul instructed the saints in Rome to “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse”. His encouragement flowed from a posture of devotion to one another due to the essential truth that we are all part of the family of God, if, indeed, we are in Christ Jesus. I believe Paul both experienced, but also foresaw, that often times persecution would come not only from without but at times from within the gathering of the redeemed.
Essentially, to bless means to speak words of life while in prayer, or otherwise, to another. To curse means to speak words of destruction and death. Whether those words are verbalized, or only spoken in the heart, in one, sense makes little difference.
Forgiveness & Forgetting; 2 Very Different Things
It can be both naïve and dangerous to assume that forgiving someone for hurtful behavior is to pretend as if nothing bad has happened. All of us are imperfect and from time to time we speak careless words that offend, whether we meant it, or not. One, however, who practices giving offense and/or hurt demands that to some degree, depending on the severity of their toxicity, that boundaries be established. If their hurtful words and/or actions are consistently serious then most likely a separation will become necessary.
On one occasion the Lord spoke to me regarding a former associate in ministry who proved to be quite toxic. God’s words to me were “Love him as if he had never sinned against you”. The Lord was not calling me to “offer my cheek” forever as a target for his abuse. Rather, God was instructing me to forgive, bless, and where I had opportunities within safe boundaries to extend love. Please note, however; God was not calling me to bless his toxic behavior, but to pray for him for healing and God’s grace and mercy as I would want if I were caught in up in the same strongholds. As well, the Lord was strongly directing me not to seat myself in the seat of judgment, which belongs to Christ alone! “Do not judge, lest you be judged”. (Matt.71) A mercy we don’t give is a mercy we don’t get!
Wounds, Rejection, & Betrayal; dead ends, or doors of promotion?
The first generation of Hebrews out of Egypt spent some forty years journeying through the wilderness due to unbelief that God could effectively deal with the dangers within their promised land. In the same way I believe many Christians today have come out of slavery (dominions of darkness) and into freedom (the Kingdom of God) yet fail to enter into the promises, destiny, and calling God has for them. It is all to easy to stay focused on the giants of pain, rejection, and betrayal rather than the person and promises of God almighty.
I would even go further to say that often, as the Father did with His beloved Son, God allows us to walk through seasons of wounding, rejection, and betrayal. He might not Himself cause it but He, who can work all things out for the good of those who love Him, might just allow it.
“Why”, we our souls cry out in confusion. “Why would our loving Father allow us to suffer”? God’s goal for us is that, like Joseph, when we end up in places of influence and authority we will temper that authority and influence with the mercy and grace of the Lamb and the Lion.
It just could be that the very ordeal you are going through right now could be the doorway of promotion to a place of greater Kingdom effectiveness than you’ve ever experienced before. Don’t allow the present suffering to become one more dead end which forces us back into yesterday’s battles. Always remember to give glory to the one who “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us”!
Equally important is to strive to remember that the underserved mercies, blessings, and grace you extend to those who offend you may just be the very key they personally need to emerge from their own cave of wounds, rejection, and betrayal. After all is said and done because God is love those who desire to live a Spirit filled lifestyle must, sooner or later, begin to model and champion the ways of the Lamb and the Lion- the champion of Heaven!
One final aspect of hurt and betrayal needs to be recognized- the ensuing confusion! When those we have trusted and put our hope in not only fail us but hurt us, as well, confusion is almost always sure to follow. “How could this happen? What could we have done differently? Whose to blame”? In those moments of sensing the wilderness of the soul we must remember to “lean not to our own understanding, but to trust the Lord with all of our heart”. He absolutely can and will complete the good work that He has begun within us!
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13.35