Friendmaker for God

MAKING A COVENANT

What Is A Covenant?
A covenant is nothing more than an intentional spiritual friendship. It is a relationship with a purpose. It does not happen by accident or circumstance. While factors beyond our control contribute to the possibility of a good covenant, it does not “just happen.” It has to be pursued by two people who are seeking “something more and someone deeper” in life and living. Two people, under God, need to be willing to undertake a spiritual discipline of committing themselves to a relationship through some simple (but important) action steps. There needs to be some common factors.
For example, in a mutual covenant, some crucial underlying characteristics need to be congruent. Commitment is key! The most important mutual commitment has to be to Jesus Christ. Covenant partners can come from different denominational backgrounds, have different worship styles, exercise different devotional practices, or hold different doctrinal positions. But they need to have that key relationship in common.
As Saint Benedict wrote in his fifth century “Rule,” there is the need for conversion. People experience conversion in different ways. Some have dramatic, “road to Damascus” Paul-like encounters with Jesus. Some have a long and winding, sometimes even tortuous pathway to faith. Others may feel like they’ve always been disciples. But despite alternative journeys, the demanding questions are, “Where are you with Jesus today? Is He your Creator, Redeemer, Lord, your Source, Savior and Sustainer for life? Is Jesus your primary covenant?”
The second congruent characteristic is integrity. Do Covenant friends have the capacity and willingness to keep commitments? Is their word their bond? Can they be trusted? Beware abusers, manipulators, liars and cheats! While we all are sinners we still all have the free will to choose a life of “inner-grit” integrity. Without it, a Covenant will be meaningless. With it a Covenant becomes priceless.
The third congruent characteristic is compatibility. It is hard to assess interpersonal compatibility. We just seem to resonate to some people while others leave us cold. Is the potential Covenant partner someone with whom we really want to spend time? Our Covenant friend is not a spiritual superior “military drill instructor.” The Covenant commitment is not a punishment. It is rather a special discipline that calls for time and energy. Personal compatibility helps provide the motivation to make the commitment needed to be effective.
How do we assess and evaluate a potential partner’s congruency? The best way is to spend some time together to get to know each other in a variety of settings. Observe how they treat other people (they won’t treat you much differently.) Talk about some of your histories and share some of your underlying values. Look at Scripture together to gauge your responses to particular passages like:
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)
The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26)
The Promises of Jesus for Effective Living (2 Peter 1:4-8)
You don’t need complete agreement on how to apply these passages but they will help you understand how the other person thinks about living the Christian life.
There comes a point where we have to decide whether or not to go ahead with making a Covenant commitment. Prayer for the Holy Spirit’s guidance will be very important. We can’t know enough about another person to be completely definitive about how they believe or will behave. But we can offer ourselves as openly as we can to let them get to know us. They also have to make a similar determination about us!
A Covenant is a committed relationship that grants another person the “right” to ask us about our personal and spiritual lives. Within pre-set boundaries and areas of life we ask someone to become a cheerleader, a companion and cohort on our mutual journeys of faith for a set amount of time. It is an exceptional gift given by few and to be received and given gratefully.
The Bible gives us several models of committed relationships between two people. Abraham and Eleazer, Ruth and Naomi in the Old Testament. Mary and Elizabeth, Paul and Priscilla, even Jesus and Lazarus are examples from the New Testament. But the most notable relationship is one described in 1 Samuel 18-20.
_____________________________
Question for personal reflection –
* Who are models of commitment, integrity and compatibility for you?
Questions for a small group –
* Get acquainted – As a child or a teenager, who was your “best buddy?” Why?
* Look at the Bible – John 11 describes Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead. Why do you think “Jesus wept” in John 11:35?
* Application – How do we go about finding a “soul friend?”

The Biblical Story Of Jonathan And David As One Model Of A Covenant
Jonathan was born with the assumption of destiny. As the eldest son of the first king of Israel, he was thought by most to being destined to become king. Even though kings were not elected but were anointed by prophets (like the prophet Samuel had anointed Jonathan’s father, Saul), people naturally assumed the anointing would carry on through the family lineage. One day, Jonathan would become king. That was not to be Jonathan’s destiny.
Jonathan’s father, Saul, was a reluctant king who was superior in height, strength and handsomeness. He had been anointed by Samuel as an accommodation to the people of Israel who had clamored for a king to protect them. Unfortunately Saul was initially not universally accepted, but was later acclaimed by the same people who had earlier demanded a king. Perhaps as a result, Saul became a neurotic, eventually paranoid man with a “prophet complex.” He later died in battle, a defeated, broken man along with his loyal son, Jonathan.
In Hebrew Jonathan means “God’s gift.” Jonathan’s mother was Ahinoam. Jonathan had 3 known brothers and 2 sisters about whom we know next to nothing. Jonathan had one son, Mephibosheth (Merib-baal) who was lame due to an accident when his nurse dropped him while they were trying to escape capture.
Jonathan was a good warrior with bow and sword. Although he was the crown prince in line for the throne, he befriended a young man named David and later even protected him from his father when Saul tried to kill David.
From a human perspective David was not someone who was born with a sense of destiny. David was from “the other side of the tracks,” the son of a man named Jesse, and the youngest of eight brothers left to do the chores. As the youngest boy it fell to him to wander the rocky hillsides tending the family sheep herd.
He was certainly resourceful and brave. He killed both a lion and a bear with his slingshot to protect the sheep. And he was also a musician and a poet. Lonely nights out under the stars watching as his sheep slept gave him ample opportunity to write songs and ponder the mysteries of the universe. That all changed one day when the prophet Samuel came to call on Jesse.
Samuel requested Jesse to assemble his sons in order to give a special blessing to one of them. Jesse almost forgot young David in the process. Only when Samuel sensed the right man was not in the line-up, did Jesse send for David to join his brothers. And then it happened.
Contrary to all the cultural expectations and with curious timing, without notifying Saul or the other “powers that be,” Samuel anointed David to become the king-elect. From a lowly shepherd, David became a man of destiny – but a destiny that would not be fulfilled without triumph and tragedy.
After using the same technology on a nationally intimidating enemy giant named Goliath as he had on the lion and the bear threatening his father’s sheep, David killed the taunting nine-foot warrior using a slingshot with one stone to his forehead. David had tried to use the king’s armor and sword but it was too large and confining. David confronted the giant in “the name of the Lord” and was even prepared to kill the giant’s four brothers (David had picked up 5 smooth stones from the brook, not just one), but they and the whole opposing army ran away in fear.
David became an instant conquering hero. He was brought into the king’s camp and was given the honor of entertaining the king with his skilled harp playing and his soothing music. Unfortunately, he also became the target for King Saul’s jealousy when the fickle people of Israel continued to sing David’s praises at Saul’s expense.
Despite the obvious threat to Jonathan’s destiny, David became his best friend. Something clicked in their relationship and they began a deep friendship that was unusual then – and now. In 1 Samuel 18:1 we read that Jonathan “became one in spirit and loved him as himself.” He even made a covenant marking it by giving David his princely robe, tunic, sword, bow and belt as a sign of his commitment to his friend.
Jonathan’s sister Michel was in love with David and eventually married him. But that alliance did nothing to resolve Saul’s paranoia. He even threw a spear trying to pin David to the wall while David was singing to sooth Saul’s ravaged soul.
When it became too dangerous for David to remain anywhere near King Saul (cf. 1 Samuel 20) Jonathan gave David a secret sign of the arrows. David was to flee certain assassination. But Jonathan then set caution aside and said a tearful goodbye with another covenant (1 Samuel 20:42).
Despite being the friend and companion of Crown Prince Jonathan, for many years David lived in limbo as a military hero or a traitor, depending on whose opinion was asked. He became a fugitive. After Saul and Jonathan’s untimely death in battle, David’s grief knew no bounds (cf. 2 Samuel 1:25-26). When the next-in-line kin Ish-bosheth was assassinated, David was finally acclaimed King of Israel. Even then David’s life was marked by further triumph and tragedy.
We can learn much by observing the covenant that was cast between Jonathan and David. First, the covenant was an act of grace. It was obviously not in Jonathan’s self-interest but he was willing to sacrifice his position because “Jonathan loved David as himself.” (That sounds like Jesus’ definition of neighbor in His summary of the Law, “love your neighbor as yourself.”)
All David had to give in return was his friendship but it became a relationship “greater than that of a woman.” This was NOT a homosexual relationship as some might suggest. Rather, it was a unique friendship that was not created for the normal reasons that friendships form.
It was the result of an intentional crossing of biological, cultural and economic boundaries with no expectation of receiving anything in return. There was no advantage to Jonathan to create a covenant. Yet, he was able to see beyond self-interest and sense in David a soul-friend kinship that went deeper than David’s family and arranged marriage ties. It was a spiritual gift that defied explanation.
Second, we learn that the covenant was not “situational.” The covenant was an intentional, voluntary choice by both to commit themselves to each other. It did not depend on the normal circumstances that define relationships. It went way beyond proximity or convenience. Instead it was a covenant of love that transcended space and time. Despite their separation by virtue of the terrible situations in which both Jonathan and David found themselves, they maintained their communication and connections. We’re not even sure they ever saw each other again. All we know is that David was able to experience a friend that was “closer than a brother.” (Cf. Proverbs 18:24)
_____________________________
Question for personal reflection –
* Who are some models of trust, integrity and compatibility for you?
Questions for a small group –
* Get acquainted – As a child or a teenager, who was your greatest hero? Why?
* Look at the Bible – 1 Samuel 18:1 says, “…Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” Why do we think that occurred?
* Application – How do we go about finding a “friend closer than a brother?”


How To Build A Trusting Covenant Relationship
In a society that increasingly lives alone, works alone, worships alone, even recreates alone, it will require learning a new language of relationship. The key word to learn is trust. Trusting relationships are rare and require time to build. We’re accustomed to casual connections or functional friendships with other people. We don’t have as much experience in opening our inner lives to another person.
The first step is to try it. That means becoming vulnerable. Conscious of the possibility of rejection, we still take the risk and approach a friend we think might be on the same quest for “something more and someone deeper.” We might ask them if they are interested in considering taking some steps on a spiritual journey together for a time. We can describe the idea of an intentional spiritual relationship and ask for their help.
It is like asking someone to hold us accountable for losing weight or quitting smoking. We have to admit we need their help. We don’t have it all together. The key is to become vulnerable. (The following “Starter Kit” for a Covenant might be a tangible action step to discuss together.)
As difficult as that will be the first time, we’ll find that our relationship will take on a whole different dimension. Even if our friend isn’t ready we’ll discover we already have a deeper friendship just by being open enough to share a weakness. If they are prepared to take that next step they will need to be ready to trust you with a point of their vulnerability. It may not seem like such a big deal looking back, but at the time it can feel like a “high fright” risk to be real with someone else.
The second key is reciprocity. When we ask for help, we are also offering our companionship to someone else on their faith journey. God never intended for us to go it alone. Companionship in following Jesus is an assumption. Jesus sent His disciples out two by two. We do well to follow that pattern for our discipleship.
Reciprocity means to “return the favor.” As we receive supportive accountability we also give it. Becoming a mutual mentor to another Christian gives access to our lives normally reserved to ourselves alone. Walking into someone else’s life becomes a sacred duty to tread lightly but to be there for them as they seek to grow both personally and spiritually.
We cannot do the spiritual work for another person. But we can cheer them on as they do what God is leading them to change or relinquish or pursue. And they do the same for us.
The third key is regular communication. The commitment to a preliminary “Covenant” means we offer them up in prayer to God daily. That’s the first gift we give. Intercessory prayer – praying on behalf of another – means we talk to God every day about our friend. We ask God to do for them what they cannot do for themselves. We ask God for the strength to accomplish what He sets out for them that day. We pray for their protection. We thank God for their partnership. We pray for the Holy Spirit to even guide us in how to pray on their behalf.
Another gift we give (and receive) is at least weekly contact. Getting together for a meal, meeting in a regular spot or setting aside a regular time on the phone or computer if we can’t be in the same room is an important means of linking and talking about the “Covenant.” Setting aside that regular time might feel sacrificial because of the multiple demands on our time we constantly experience. But this is sacred time!
It must be more than just a time of “chit-chat.” It needs to be focused on what is happening in our personal and spiritual lives. After the usual, brief, “How’s it going?” there needs to be a focus on how it is really going on our journeys of faith. What barriers are we experiencing? What progress have we made? Where do we need more prayer? This is a time of moving deeper from a casual connection or functional friendship to spiritual sharing at a more intimate level.
This is not a time for giving advice or criticizing our partner. They are making their own journey and are accountable to the Holy Spirit – not us. We are accountable to them (and they to us) only for supporting and encouraging them as they open their lives to God.
If asked we can make observations or offer some of our experiences. But we must remember to be gentle and positive and optimistic. God will do what God chooses in His time and timing – not ours. Remember it is easier to find faults in the other than it is to accept weaknesses in ourselves. Holding up a relational mirror is a means for their self-awareness, not for taking another’s measure thereby underscoring their failures.
Trust is crucial to a Covenant. Therefore, there need to be some prior agreements about confidentiality and boundaries in the Covenant. As a rule, unless a person is preparing to really hurt themselves or some one else, what is shared between the partners must remain private.
Generally, the Covenant conversations need to remain focused on the partners and not on other people. This is particularly true if they are married. The Covenant must not violate or infringe on the higher marriage covenant. What goes on between a husband and a wife should remain private to them.
A Covenant partner may talk about feelings or concerns they are experiencing in other parts of their lives, but only insofar as it affects the particular area in which they are asking for help in order to grow. This time must not be given to gossip or speculation about others. It is often an intense time for personal reflection and confession and should not be trivialized by idle conversation or “third-party” discussion.
The Covenant is the great opportunity for two people to be able to relax and open their lives to another knowing they will be supported and encouraged in their quest for growth. Having someone who will really listen without having to try and change us is remarkably affirming. We’ll discover that we will look forward with anticipation to getting together to share the progress we are making and the things we are learning and the new ways we are experiencing God.
Just knowing someone is praying for us daily becomes an incentive to not engage in behaviors we won’t want to confess, or to pursue ideals we would have been afraid to admit before. The weekly meetings, to just “check in,” will become events that will take on a higher priority in our schedules. We’ll be glad we took the risk to be accountable for our Covenant growth in vulnerability, reciprocity and communication. Three months will go by in a hurry and we’ll have to consider where we go from there.
_____________________________
Question for personal reflection –
* Who are some people who model the qualities of trust, reciprocity and communication for you?
Questions for a small group –
* Get acquainted – As a child or a teenager, describe a time when you made a “blood brother/sister” pact with someone your cared for. What happened?
* Look at the Bible – 1 Samuel 20:42 says, “…Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord….” What did that mean for David and Jonathan?
* Application – What are some of the barriers that have to be overcome to experience that kind of partnership?

“Starter Kit” For A Preliminary 3 Month Mutual Covenant
It can be very helpful to experiment with a short-term commitment to see how it goes to test whether or not you both are ready for a more in-depth intentional spiritual companionship. Here are some simple commitments the two of you can make – with God’s help!
1. Commit to pray daily for your Covenant friend
2. Commit to meet or at least talk weekly with your Covenant friend
3. Commit to voluntarily sharing one area of personal or spiritual growth you want to undertake by giving your Covenant friend permission and responsibility to ask, “”How’s it going?” in that area of growth.
4. Evaluate the experience and consider making a deeper and longer term commitment
_____________________________
Question for personal reflection –
* Who might be someone you could approach with this idea of a mutual Covenant?
Questions for a small group –
* Get acquainted – Describe examples of people who have modeled commitment for you.
* Look at the Bible – Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” What does the Bible mean by this?
* Application – What is keeping us from pursuing this kind of “soul friend” relationship?

______________________________

******************************************

Making An In-Depth Covenant
What do we have to learn from the Bible and the ancient wisdom and experience of the Church along with the insights of modern social psychology about committed, intentional relationships? First, some basic theological tenets:
Incarnational Theology
• God created the world for good and was intimately connected to the creation. (He regularly walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve)
• God gave the risky gift of free will to humans in order to have an authentic relationship with them
• Creation’s harmony was broken by the evil exercise of free will by humans (as influenced by cosmic evil) but God continued to establish covenants (intentional committed relationships) with people
• Over time God provided both the standard for perfect relationships as well as the means for restoring them via the Old Testament Law and the Temple’s atoning sacrificial system– yet that proved insufficient for the majority of people
• So, God re-entered the creation by emptying Himself (without losing His Divine nature) in the birth, life, death on the cross, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One – the Messiah – the Christ, through the Incarnation (the “enfleshing” of God) as the New Testament or Covenant of love
• Through the Incarnation God re-established the capacity for loving relationships with humans by their faithful, willing commitment of their lives to Jesus in covenants of faith, hope and love
• Through the on-going presence, direction and power of the Holy Spirit, God has called into existence a “beloved community” of people who are committed to Christ and who are given the mission of reaching the world with the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus through Incarnational witness (the Kingdom of God) with the promise of His return and fulfillment of His pledge to create a new, eternal heaven and earth
• The primary and overarching characteristic of Incarnational Theology is the centrality of multi-dimensional personal relationships (higher in worship and fellowship, wider in evangelism and service, deeper in discipleship and stewardship) that are informed and guided by the authority of the Bible

Second, some historic disciplines that have served Christians over the centuries and around the world:
Historic Benedictine Spirituality
• In the fourth century, in response to corruption and nominalism in the organized church, many people retreated to the desert to escape and to pursue their passion to experience God
• In the fifth century, Benedict of Nursia, began to codify the monastic principles (living in intentional, covenantal communities) for godly living in such a way that people could grow with purified, undivided and changed hearts (spiritual wills)
• Dealing with the universal issues of sex, money and power, Benedict defined the basic three monastic vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, based on the Biblical “Evangelical Counsels” Jesus outlined for would-be disciples wanting to pursue godly living (cf. the rich, young ruler who came asking Jesus, “What must I do to be saved?”) and the Apostle Paul’s Biblical advice to Christians
• In addition, Benedict defined the vow of stability (a life-long commitment to the monastic community) and emphasized the importance of hospitality and humility as a way of life
• Other subsequent monastic movements in the Church world-wide have adopted and adapted Benedict’s “Rule” in specialized ways with particular ministry foci, but the Biblical foundation remains the same
• These foundational three vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience help frame the “Covenant Vows For A Ministry Partnership” taken by participants in the Centerpoint Society [cf. www.centerpointsociety.com]

Third, some insights from social psychology that have assisted in healing and growth despite incredible barriers:
The Social Psychological Dynamics of the Recovery Movement’s 12 Step Process
• Modern, Western life has been characterized by the growth in awareness of many habitual addictions that are resistant to most medicinal and talk therapies
• Using a Biblical framework coupled with an intuitive understanding of human nature, the 12 Step Process initiated by Alcoholics Anonymous has proven to be an effective means of recovering from and living in a healthy manner despite the on-going inherent capacity for habitual addictions (including sin)
• The 12 Step Process has also been used in a variety of ways for facilitate positive personal and spiritual growth across denominational, cultural, economic and gender boundaries
• Whether in recovery or seeking growth, admitting that their lives are unmanageable and need outside help is the crucial first stage for spiritual health helping people become entirely ready to change
• Doing an honest moral inventory and confessing to God and another person becomes a second stage means for change that does not rely on will power or personal ego to do what people cannot do for themselves – or by themselves
• Continuing growth occurs when people observe the impact of recovery and healing in the lives of others to whom they were able to reach as “one beggar sharing with other beggars where to find bread” as the third stage of transparently and humbly sharing their histories and recoveries with others
• Regular involvement with another person in a mutual covenant and with small groups who share the same spiritual values support and facilitate the social psychological dynamics that contribute to long-lasting and long-term growth
• The translations of the 3 Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience with 12 practical action steps (4 per Vow), along with a proposed organizational structure provide the framework for the Centerpoint Society. The Centerpoint Society is meant to be an international, cross-denominational, incarnational movement of “mission partners,” a “Covenant Group of Christians who Center on Jesus Christ, and Point to the World as Friendmakers for God” [2 Corinthians 5:17-6:1]
_____________________________
Question for personal reflection –
* What is the hardest part to understand about the nature of this Covenant for you?
Questions for a small group –
* Get acquainted – Describe a time when you felt like you were part of an exciting “movement” of faith?
* Look at the Bible – Colossians 1:27-28 describes the mystery and the goal for life in Christ. In what ways might a Covenant help us experience the reality of living “in Christ”?
* Application – What would it be like to be part of a group of people who share your desire to experience “something more and someone deeper” for faith and life?

Leadership And Submission Within The Covenant
Contrary to contemporary models of intra-personal leadership, in the Covenant both partners share in mutual leadership roles with each other. However, even as leadership shifts back and forth, the style that must be adopted is not dictatorial or directive based on personality type, style or strength.
Rather, leadership must be exercised only by persuasion. “Moral-suasion” by personal example and Biblical insight is to be offered as a gift to encourage and build up – not to create feelings of fear or coercion.
Similarly, to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…” (Eph 5:21) means yielding to the other in voluntary accountability. “Please ask me how I’m doing in the following areas…” is a way of saying, “I will be open and trusting whether I succeed or fail.”
It is not the role of the Covenant friend to judge, give un-requested advice, or to do for the other what they must do for themselves. While there will be times when one partner feels more need than the other, proportionately equal time must be given for both friends to share their lives – successes and failures – with each other.
The Covenant is NOT a context for becoming a therapist, financial advisor, or spiritual superior to the other partner. While healing, progress and change will occur, they must be a result of the Holy Spirit’s work to comfort, convict and challenge both partners to personal and spiritual maturity.
It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27) that empowers the mystery of the soul friend relationship. Our role as human agents in that process is only a contributing factor and not the basis by which we experience more of God and deeper intimacy with our Covenant friend. While totally unconditional friendship is not completely possible in this life, we can pursue that ideal in the Covenant by God’s grace.
_____________________________
Question for personal reflection –
* What is the hardest aspect of mutual submission in a relationship for you?
Questions for a small group –
* Get acquainted – Describe a time when you felt like someone had a great deal of influence on you just by the way they lived out their faith.
* Look at the Bible – Philippians 2:1-11 describes how Jesus’ self-emptying (Greek “kenosis”) is the attitude we should exhibit with each other. What keeps us from experiencing this kind of harmony and humility with others?
* Application – How do we go about developing these qualities in our lives?

Cautions
Because of the vulnerabilities created as Covenant friends who seek to grow in the areas of sex, money and power, the following practical cautions must be taken as a matter of prudence (To ignore them risks destroying the entire relationship):
1. Beware involvement (physical and emotional) with your partner’s spouse (if married). The very factors that attract you to be soul friends will often also apply to their spouse. Do NOT spend time alone even under the pretext of talking about your Covenant friend. Couples may find mutual friendship and participation in small groups together. But appropriate boundaries are crucial to avoid heartache and infidelity.
2. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Beware financial involvement. Money can skew a relationship. Owing money to a Covenant friend can create feelings of resentment and dependency. Financial pressure also flies in the face of full disclosure in our journeys towards freedom from the control and idolatry money so often exerts in modern societies. If your Covenant friend needs money and you have it to give, make it a non-returnable gift with no strings or conditions attached. And be careful about giving gifts. In our society, too often, there is pressure to reciprocate. We feel compelled to give a birthday gift, a Christmas card or an anniversary present if we receive one from a friend. Keep gifts to a minimum. The supportive relationship is the best gift we can offer each other – not things.
3. Beware being involved in any organizational supervisory relationships. It’s been said, “Never make your bishop your confessor.” It is difficult to admit threatening weaknesses to your boss. The dynamics of the subtle nature of interpersonal power will create an unbalanced relationship especially if one partner becomes accountable for a larger organizational function. (Imagine having to fire your Covenant friend!)
These cautions may require personal sacrifice and social or societal misunderstanding. But because the Covenant is inherently counter-cultural, one’s choices of behavior in these areas will not be “normal.” The greater freedom found within the Covenant to confess and be blessed must still take into account the boundaries that must be imposed as a result of remaining sinners in a sinful world.
Despite our best intentions however, we are sinful, broken people. Any relationship contains the threat of betrayal. What do we do if the trust gets broken?
First, if we are guilty for whatever reason, we must own the fact of our betrayal. Or if we have been betrayed, we must also acknowledge the broken trust. Facing and confessing the truth will create feelings of anger, anguish, self-doubt and desire for revenge – or a need to escape! The truth is we all have the capacity to break the trust in any relationship. It is hard to remember that when we’ve been betrayed.
Both the victim and the perpetrator have an investment in the relationship. By grace, the Covenant can be retrieved, but with difficulty. If we are the victim it is easy to cast ourselves as the morally superior martyr and “score points” against our partner in an attempt to get even. Bitterness is a by-product of denial, revenge or martyrdom. As a famous TV preacher writes, “We must overcome bitterness with `betterness.’”
That means we have to accept the unfairness of the situation. We have to accept our weakness. We have to accept our need either for repentance or to give forgiveness, both of which are a gift of grace from God. We have to consider the added risk of restoring a trust relationship that was broken. As hard as it was to establish the first time, it will be even more difficult this time.
Time is the crucial factor. We have to allow sufficient time for healing, restitution, restoration and restarting the building process. Prayer for inner healing is crucial to overcoming the betrayal, whether it was intentional or not. And we may need to seek outside help.
The Bible is no stranger to betrayal. Listen to the poignant words of David in Psalm 41:9; “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”
But keep in mind this is the lament of a man who later would betray a trusted soldier to his death in order to hide an adulterous relationship with the soldier’s wife (2 Samuel 11). We are capable of receiving much pain from friends – and culpable in inflicting even more on others!
The best antidote to betrayal is prevention. Keeping the Covenant partnership open, honest and mutual, while observing the cautions will help keep the Covenant healthy. And it is possible to avoid the pitfalls of betrayal with the help of God, the model of Jesus and the protection of the Holy Spirit.
_____________________________
Question for personal reflection –
* When have you struggled with the specific issues of sex, money and power the most in your life?
Questions for a small group –
* Get acquainted – Describe your most meaningful times of personal communication with God.
* Look at the Bible – 2 Peter 1:3-8 describes Jesus’ “very great and precious promises.” Which of these promises would be most helpful to you right now?
* Application – Which of these cautions might be most important to follow for you?