It’s not a positive matter to discuss.
It’s not a fun season to live through either. To be the victim of betrayal is to experience significant pain. I’ve found it to be long-term suffering that does not quickly fade from memory.
While I’ve been there, done that, and burned the t-shirts, I’m not there now. So I’m able to write about this with a sense of objectivity.
Betrayal is as old as humanity. The answer to the “why” of betrayal is as simple as sin. Sin entered our world through Adam, and betrayal began. By birth and by choice, all have sinned, and all of us are capable of betrayal.
Consider these three bold marks in the betrayal of a leader.
The person that betrays their leader is a follower. They have usually made a public profession of loyalty and friendship. From the surface, the potential betrayer is an excellent asset to the leader’s team (board, council, staff). Even the leader knows the individual is gifted and has a measure of charisma. After all, there are valid reasons that this follower is in his or her place of service. In the end, though, their character betrays their competency.
But the astute leader with spiritual discernment knows something is amiss in the relationship. Even if they don’t have a clear perception of what is happening, they sense things are about to go awry. Sometimes, the leader has a spouse or some other confidante that aids their discernment.
The place where betrayal takes place is familiar. Meetings take place there, and relationships grow strong with quality time. Genuine camaraderie has entered the interpersonal relationships. Yet, the betrayer begins to allow familiarity to dissolve boundaries of respect.
Soon, they think so little of the place that their inward disrespect becomes public. Submission to godly authority and righteous protocol goes out the window as the sharpened knife prepares for entry on the backside (Et tu, Brute?). Their familiar seat in the room gives them access to their leader.
The process of betrayal is fatal. But betrayal doesn’t have to be final. The free will of the betrayer can stop his or her sinful intent. Within the process, a pattern develops. They repeatedly oppose righteous leadership and seek to usurp what does not belong to them. The betrayer will independently operate outside of recorded group decisions or the protocol of conventional thought.
A betrayal leads to fatality because it is a sin. Sin steals, kills, and destroys. Once the betrayal has taken place, trust erodes, and it can take a very long time to rebuild. In some cases, it will never return to its former state.
Throughout the Gospel narrative, there is a tale of two betrayals.
Judas is historically infamous for his demonic betrayal. But it’s not just Judas who betrayed Jesus. It’s Peter, too, with his repeated denials. The former perished, but the latter found restoration. Judas went to a premature grave, but Peter went on to Pentecostal greatness.
I’ve lived long enough to insist; betrayal doesn’t have to be final!
It wasn’t final for Peter. The remainder of his life was a Spirit-filled example of what God can do with a yielded vessel.
To the Christian leader, I say, beware. Not everyone who is on your team is on your side. Just because they publicly act as your follower doesn’t mean they are privately supporting you. Ask God for wisdom and observe trends. Don’t prematurely judge someone based on an isolated incident. True colors will shine through over the long haul.
Don’t be in a hurry to turn every team member into your best friend. Take this proverb to heart.
The righteous should choose his friends carefully,Proverbs 12:26, NKJV
For the way of the wicked leads them astray.
But to the leader, I also say, be willing to forgive the inexcusable and the unrepentant betrayers in your life. Even if they are never able to be restored to former proximity, forgive them and release them to move on. Perhaps they can become a future asset to another team in another zip code.