Last week’s post about “Food, Fellowship and the Art of Being Known” described how gathering around a table to share a meal provides an opportunity for intimacy, connection, and comfort—needs that we all have (whether we acknowledge it or not.) This is one of the many reasons why I’m a big advocate of having deliberate meals around the table. Just last night, as I sat sharing supper with people who I’ve known for 37 years, I learned that one of the individuals grew up in a home with alcoholic parents who ignored him. I was astounded by the detailed memories he had of his high school years and especially enjoyed hearing about the unlimited access he had to a stash of ice cream at his friend Bob’s house. (I wish I had a friend like this in high school!) Although his memories were over 70 years old, the pain of his childhood was still evident to anyone who took the time to really listen. Although last night the kitchen table was a place of connection and (perhaps) comfort for this man, I’m guessing this was not the case in his childhood. As I listened to his story, I realized that the table could also be a place of pain and betrayal. Have you ever experienced betrayal by those who are close to you?
Jesus knew the pain of betrayal well. His last supper with his disciples was an event filled with both intimacy and pain. Scripture indicates that Jesus was eager to eat this Passover meal with his disciples (Luke 22:15)—the twelve men he spent the last three years with. He not only considered these constant companions his friends, but they also were the ones he chose to carry on this world-changing ministry. The meal provided an atmosphere of intimacy, connection, and comfort as Jesus washed his friends’ feet and imparted to them final words of instruction and encouragement. It was a beautiful example of what we should all aspire to as we gather together to break bread—except for one small thing. His friends would all betray him in his time of greatest need. Jesus knew this, and he chose to eat with them anyway. What can we learn from his example?
“If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt 6:14).
The first thing to understand and accept is that people you love (and love you) will nonetheless hurt you. This is a universal fact. Until mankind is fully redeemed and restored, broken and hurt people will continue to hurt others. Jesus knew this, but he chose to continue to invest in relationships with others—even Judas—who would betray him. As a result, we too should continue to invest in relationships even though we know that, at times, will cause us pain. All relationships do.
Second, commit to a lifestyle of forgiveness. Jesus practiced what he preached when it came to forgiveness. As he hung on the cross in unspeakable suffering and only moments away from his death, Jesus asked God to forgive those who contributed to his fate (Luke 23:34). Forgiving others who have hurt or betrayed us puts us in a position to receive God’s forgiveness for ourselves. It also sets us free from the inevitable consequence of being poisoned by bitterness and rage. (Keep in mind that forgiving someone doesn’t mean what they did to you is okay or even that you must reconcile the relationship. Instead it hands the offense you hold against them to God. Forgiveness means that you trust Him to take care of it.) Learn to forgive often.
Thirdly, process the pain in your heart with a trusted friend or professional. While forgiveness helps prevents roots of bitterness from taking hold in your heart, the pain of betrayal (sadness, anger, loneliness) needs to be expressed and heard. The ability of another person to hold a space for your emotional pain without trying to fix it can be deeply healing and restorative. Pain needs to be expressed and heard before it can be healed.
The act of forgiving someone who has hurt you has the added benefit of allowing that person to walk in greater levels of freedom and identity for themselves. This happened to Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus three times. When Peter jumped out of the boat to meet Jesus on the shore (after Jesus’ resurrection), Peter was restored from the sin of his betrayal—all over breakfast (John 21:7-19). (Never underestimate the healing power of a meal!) As Jesus guided Peter to confess his love for Jesus three times—equal to the number of times he betrayed him—Peter began his healing and redemptive journey and stepped into his God-given identity as a powerful leader in the fledgling church. Imagine the impact we could have on others as we forgive and release them into their true identity!
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col 3:13).
Finally, it’s important to recognize that sometimes hurt and betrayal can feel completely overwhelming, and the roots can be quite deep. I encourage you to not let this stop you from starting the process of forgiveness and healing in your life. If you don’t know where to start, consider the following steps:
- Sit quietly before God and ask him to show you if there is anyone you need to forgive. Make a list of whatever you see, hear, sense, or feel.
- If there are several (many?) people He has brought to mind, rank order them from easiest to forgive to the hardest.
- Start with the easiest person on your list, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to pray: “Jesus, I choose to forgive ____ for ____. I give you all the hurt and pain he/she has caused me. What do you have for me in return?” Make a note of what you heard, saw, or sensed.
- Work your way through the list as you are able. If you get stuck, ask Jesus to give you forgiveness that you can then give to that person. If needed, seek help from a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor to help you continue praying through your list.
With Easter only days away, there is no better time to begin the process of forgiveness and healing in your life. Let me know how you get on! Please share any testimonies you have about your experience with forgiveness. 👇🏻