Betrayal is a terrible thing to experience, when someone fails to act appropriately toward us. It usually happens over a trust issue, when a best friend tells other people our deepest, darkest secret, when a spouse breaks the marriage covenant, when a government changes what it had promised to do. The worse betrayals are the intimate ones; those that involve the heart. Such betrayals have no winners as both the offended and offender end up hurt by the action or decision taken.
Probably the most famous betrayal was when Peter denied being one of Jesus' disciples even as Jesus was facing the darkest moments of his life. We can make up all kinds of excuses for Peter; he was scared, he felt alone, he was confused. But at the end of the day it still came down to Peter denying any connection with Jesus in order to save his own skin. It would be like your best friend facing a bunch of bullies and someone turns to you to ask if you are his friend. Because you don't want to suffer the same fate you deny that you even know him. He hears you, looks right into your eyes and you can see the great hurt that you just inflicted on his heart; betrayed by his best friend, left to suffer on his own:
One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (John 18:26-27)
If we flip back a few hours, we are reminded that Jesus had actually told Peter that this moment would come; that Peter would deny his connection with Jesus; that Peter would betray Jesus just like all the rest:
“I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:34)
Peter was adamant that he would do no such thing, just as we are adamant that we will always love Jesus and stand by him. Yet, how many times have we denied Jesus, betraying the bond of trust we have forged with him? Perhaps we have not denied him with words like Peter did but what about our actions?
We have been brought into a relationship of trust with Jesus, a relationship based on the foundation of love and forgiveness. In this relationship Jesus has said that because we love him we will do what he has commanded. It means that every time we fail to forgive someone who has harmed us we have denied Jesus; we have denied that we belong to him; we have denied that we love him. Every time we fail to show kindness, or to put other people's needs ahead of our own, we are denying Jesus in us. It is a colossal failure on our part to stand with Jesus in what he considers to be of utmost importance in the Kingdom.
Like we do with Peter we can come up with excuses for our failure but in the end it is usually a matter of us putting ourselves ahead of our relationship with Jesus. We don't do things we should, we are not the people we should be because it usually means that it is going to cost us something, we will be put out somehow. Yet, Jesus made the conditions of our relationship with him clear from day one:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
The only betrayal that should be happening is the positive betrayal of denying our sinful nature, when we turn our back on our flesh, taking up our cross every day and following in the example Jesus gave us. We can't follow Jesus and be a miserable person. We cannot pick and choose who we will love. We cannot withhold kindness from someone who does not please us. We cannot deny someone forgiveness just because the hurt goes deep. We must walk as Jesus walked, do as Jesus did, become as he is now. Anything less is a betrayal to the covenant that we have with him, a denial of our relationship.
The great thing is that Jesus has a heart of compassion and understands all our weaknesses. Just as he forgave Peter his betrayal, the three acts of denial, he is also willing to forgive our actions and be reconciled with us. But don't think this gives you license to do what you want and to say what you please. Every denial of Jesus is a hurtful thing so that the one who we proclaim to love above everything else ends up wounded by our actions and our words. In all things deny your flesh and respond to the things of your day in a manner that would bring Jesus glory. Spend more time with Jesus because the more time you spend with him the more you will be like him.