Facing Betrayal

Facing Betrayal: Finding Hope and Healing

May 23, 2024

The Sting of Betrayal

In life, we all face experiences that shake us to our core, and betrayal is among the most devastating. How many of you have ever dealt with the pain of being betrayed? It’s a universal experience, one that often leaves us stunned and heartbroken, especially when the betrayal comes from someone we trust—a friend, a family member, or a leader. The agony of such betrayal is profound, and when it occurs within the church, a place meant to be a sanctuary of love and trust, the pain is even more acute.

Betrayal in the Church: A Personal Story

Several years ago, while leading a youth ministry at my home church, we experienced a profound betrayal. A group of students came forward to share that a trusted volunteer had violated our trust. Listening to them, I was heartbroken, sick to my stomach, and furious. This man wasn’t just a volunteer; he had been a close friend. As I watched the students speak to law enforcement, the weight of the betrayal was overwhelming. It felt like a shadow had been cast over the last decade of my life, making everything I once believed feel uncertain. I retreated to my office, closed the door, and wept.

The Impact of Church Betrayal

This wasn’t just a personal betrayal; it was a communal one. The pain of betrayal within the church is profound and far too common. According to Barna research, one in three adults who no longer attend church cite hypocrisy or betrayal by a trusted member or leader as their reason for leaving. This statistic is echoed in other studies on church health, including those focused on adolescents. One in three teens will walk away from the church due to a sense of betrayal, distrust, or judgment they experience within the community.

Moving Forward After Betrayal

So, how do we move forward after being betrayed, especially by someone in our inner circle? The early church faced this kind of crisis when Judas, one of their own, betrayed Jesus. Their group, which represented the twelve tribes of Israel, was now down to eleven. They had a vacancy, a void left by Judas’s betrayal. But it wasn’t just about numbers; it was about trust, unity, and their mission. How did they move forward?

Lessons from the Early Church

In Acts chapter 1, we see how the disciples navigated their loss and found a path forward. After Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving them with the instruction to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit, they followed His command. Despite their uncertainty and fear, they trusted Jesus’s promise and gathered in an upper room. While they waited, they didn’t scatter or let their doubt pull them apart. Instead, they leaned on each other and prayed constantly.

Addressing Betrayal Directly

Peter, who had previously denied Jesus, stood up among the believers and addressed the elephant in the room: Judas’s betrayal. He didn’t avoid the painful truth but faced it head-on. Avoiding or pretending the betrayal didn’t exist would only postpone the inevitable. Peter’s honesty shows us the importance of facing our own betrayals and acknowledging the pain they cause.

Turning to Scripture and Prayer

Peter also turned to Scripture to provide context and clarity. He quoted the Psalms to show that God was not taken by surprise by Judas’s betrayal. This teaches us that God cares about the details and the integrity of His message. In times of betrayal, we too should turn to Scripture and prayer. Prayer helps us to process our pain, seek God’s guidance, and trust in His sovereignty.

Seeking Wise Counsel and Community

After the betrayal in my home church, we sought wise counsel from trusted leaders and professionals. They advised us to create opportunities for people to talk and address their feelings. We held meetings where students and volunteers could express their hurt and ask questions. This open communication was crucial for healing.

Trusting in God’s Sovereignty

Finally, we must trust in God’s sovereignty. Despite the pain of betrayal, God can bring good out of even the darkest situations. The disciples filled the leadership void left by Judas by praying and seeking God’s guidance. They chose Matthias to join the apostles, showing us that God’s plans prevail despite human failure.

Finding Hope and Healing

Betrayal leaves deep scars, but it doesn’t have to define us. By facing the truth, turning to Scripture and prayer, seeking wise counsel, and trusting in God’s sovereignty, we can find hope and healing. Relationships can be difficult and painful, but they are worth it. Even in the church, where betrayal can feel like a double whammy, God’s love and grace are greater. Let us lean into His promises and trust that He will redeem and restore us, no matter how deep our wounds.

This article was adapted from a sermon preached at Community Alliance Church on May 12, 2024 by Pastor Matt Hall. For more you can listen to the full sermon here: Navigating Betrayal.

May 23, 2024