Is it I, Lord? 4 Keys to Grace During Betrayal

My daily Bible reading took me to a passage this morning that I needed so much to read. I needed the reminder. There were two major polarizing events that occurred in the short passage I was reading in Matthew 26: The Last Supper, with Jesus demonstrating that His body and blood were about to save the world, but before that, the fact that someone was going to betray him.

What stands out to me is that every disciple sitting at the table seemed to realize the same thing: In some sense they all knew that though they would never want to, it was possible that they could betray Jesus. That’s why when Jesus told them at the Last Supper that one of them would betray him, they all asked the same question: “Is it I, Lord?”

I’m sitting here on a Monday morning feeling heart-heavy about many things. I’m a pastor. Anyone reading this who is a pastor knows that I need not say much more. Being a pastor and Monday mornings is something all pastors know well and sometimes dread. Today I’m especially heart-heavy because of social media. I know, that’s stupid. Though I only use social media to say good things and with the hope to encourage others, unfortunately, every now and then I see something that just gives a metaphorical kick to the teeth. Today was one of those days. The details don’t matter. I image you can guess, though, that it has something to do with feeling betrayed.

I once read, “Sometimes, the person you’d take a bullet for ends up being the one behind the gun.” In those cases the pain of betrayal seems worse but the good news is you and I can extend grace.

Here’s 4 ways to keep a heart of grace when you feel betrayed:

1. Remember that we all begin broken and without Jesus’ intervention we’ll stay that way.

My knee-jerk reaction when someone either intentionally or unintentionally hurts me is to decide that their motives are purely evil. Have you ever felt that way? Though Peter and the rest of the Twelve didn’t betray Jesus the way Judas did, they all abandoned Him. In some sense they all knew what they were made of—that’s why they all questioned Jesus when He stated someone would betray him.They believed in some sense it could be them.

What helps me extend grace when I feel betrayed? When I remember that I am just as capable of hurting someone else as I’ve been hurt. I remember I need to follow the advice I’ve given so many others—some followed it, some didn’t—you and I need to make sure we do. Here it is:

“…if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13, ESV)

I can forgive as I have been forgiven, I can extend grace as it has been extended to me.

2. We all have bad days and make wrong decisions.

In short, we’re all made out of the same stuff. Sometimes, that which I’m ready to condemn others for doing I realize I can do just as easily, even unknowingly. This helps me have grace toward those who have betrayed me.

This is why Jesus said what he said to Peter. If you know the story, once Peter heard that it was Judas, and not him, who would betray Jesus—Peter got a little heady. This is when Peter found out that he wasn’t the betrayer, he was the denier. Peter learned that he really didn’t need to be doing the comparison game with Judas—he had his own issues. I do too.

It helps me to extend grace, sometimes in my heart, sometimes through my actions, because I know I am made out of same thing as the ones who’ve betrayed me.

On a side note, Jesus said something profound to Peter when he told him that he would deny Jesus. He said, “when you have returned strengthen your bothers.” This means that if I have been betrayed, or even have done the betraying, there’s hope because God can still do something with it.

3. Sometimes, God is doing a work that only looks negative.

Betrayed? It’s not over. Your life or ministry is not about to come crashing down even if it feels like it. I know what it’s like when it feels that way—but it’s not. God has been doing incredible things through betrayal as longs has humanity has been on earth.

This is probably the most important part. God is in the business of taking brokenness, ugliness, and evil and using it for His and our good. As bad as it was for Judas, God saved the world through his betrayal. Granted, I’m sure the rest of the disciples were grateful that it wasn’t them, but we must pause and say, “look what God has done through something someone meant to be so destructive.” It reminds me of Joseph’s words to his brothers at the end of the book of Genesis:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20, ESV)

4. Keep your eyes on the forgiver.

Jesus said some powerful words when he was on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” That’s something. Jesus was both forgiving and understanding. He understood that those who betrayed Him and crucified Him had no ability, no framework to their thinking, to ever understand what it was they were actually doing.

Those who have hurt you, they have no idea how you, or it, feels. They have no way of knowing. Most of them, not all of them, but most of them, if they knew would choose to not do it.

How do you keep your eyes on the forgiver? The Apostle Paul give us one clue here:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1, ESV)

Look to what Jesus has done—He has forgiven and extended grace. It’s difficult, especially on rainy Mondays, but, because of Christ’s example and God’s work you can extend grace in times of betrayal. In doing so, you will never be more like Christ.

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