I’m supposed to be writing a sermon. My friends know that sermon-writing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m still not used to composing something that will be voiced and listened to. Part of the issue is trusting my own voice, the voice that God has given me. Am I worth listening to on a Sunday morning? Especially when there are so many other better preachers one can listen to? People can pick and choose which Sunday service to attend, which small group to participate in, which church activities to involve their families in. I think this “freedom” of choice can cause a certain amount of anxiety, especially for those who are committed for the long-haul. As a pastor, I can’t control what people do with their time… instead I have to trust that my worshiping community remains committed to God’s call, which also includes a commitment to a local body of believers. But it must be a voluntary faithfulness, rooted in love instead of guilt. There isn’t a way to secure or guarantee that; the best we can do is to go by their word. Then wait and see if their actions follow.
Trust is a fragile gift. I believe that one of the most destructive events in a person’s life is a betrayal of trust. Whether it is by friends, lovers, family, or those in authority. Deep betrayal can annihilate love and destroy a person’s faith. One betrayal of love can make all other relationships unsafe and threatening. Love, which is supposed to be open and abundant, becomes restricted and rationed. Love, which is supposed to be freely given, becomes a fear-filled choice.
Conversely, it is faithfulness that can restore love. People who can see you at your worst and stay by your side. Friends who protect and keep their promises. And the Christian hope and message is that there is God who is steadfast and faithful despite the wretchedness of humanity and the things we do to each other. Faithfulness over time can mend hearts and heal wounds, and can lead one to believe that goodness will be seen and experienced once again.
But what happens to the one who betrays? This is where I see the truth of the saying, “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts …..” Wrong begets wrong. I suppose there are many reasons for why a person betrays another: selfishness, pride, power, woundedness, or your basic- “I’m messed-up.” But without confession, repentance, and forgiveness… the behaviour is repeated again and again until they are internally destroyed, and all their relationships along with them.
I suppose, I would rather be the one who is betrayed than the one who betrays. If one is betrayed, you can still remain faithful and be an agent of love (though that in itself becomes a struggle). Jesus was betrayed by a friend and follower. He was deserted by his disciples and by the crowds that hailed his miracles and majesty. Yet he remained faithful to his promises, he remained faithful to his people.
Of course, it’s better not to be either. The scars of betrayal remains with you. It’s like you’re left holding a bag of shit with the choice of either throwing it at someone or to bury it. Better to never experience betrayal…. but if you do, I believe there is enough grace to heal all wounds.
It’ll just take some time, a couple bottles of rum, and a few, ever-faithful, friends.