6.10.2007

Rejection and Betrayal

I have an acquaintance at church who is doing to me what women often do to each other: deliberately giving me the "cold shoulder". It is a "norming" technique that we've experienced since we were little girls, and it works like this: 1) through gossip about others or through other verbal means, we explain the rules for being part of "our group of friends", 2) when we violate those rules, various ways of being reprimanded or excluded are implemented toward us, and they may escalate to being seen permanently as "not fit to be part of the group", and 3) we are expected to use both of the first two steps ourselves to communicate the rules to others within the group and to exclude those who persistently violate those rules.

Now, I've always had good friends, but rarely been part of this kind of a clique, because the "rules" never seem logical to me; so I never believe I'll actually be shunned for breaking the illogical or unkind ones, and always used to be amazed when I actually lost friends for doing so. Now I have my own rules: live life with God as my audience, be as transparent with the rest of the world as is appropriate to each relationship, persevere in relationships and work for reconciliation and peace in conflict, and allow others to choose to dislike me or distance themselves from me as they wish if I am confident I have acted lovingly and peaceably and have even gone the second mile toward reconciliation and peace. And I'm no longer amazed at being shunned for something I think is silly or sick. I realize that is who we are as sinful humans, and that the grace God has extended to me in my sinfulness can also be extended to members of cliques that exclude me or others.

But in the case of this situation at church, the woman in question is a friend of friends, but not really my friend, and our mutual friends are not acting any differently toward me than usual. And this woman has not approached me with any accusations or complaints or requests for different behavior . . . so I have to make a judgment call as to what is right in God's eyes for me to do in regard to restoring peace. Right now I'm still at the "pray about it" stage for this particular person.

But she raises the whole subject for me of "rejection and betrayal", because those really are the things we fear the most in our relationships, aren't they? That I will invest myself emotionally in a friendship with someone who doesn't reciprocate my desire for friendship or who does briefly and then pulls back once she knows me, or that I will expose myself in some emotionally or spiritually intimate way to someone in private and she will expose me unknowingly to others that I would not choose to share such things with . . .

And my boys all deal with the social fears of rejection and betrayal, too. Tattling can be a betrayal for a 5-year-old, and making fun of them is an even bigger one when it comes from a trusted friend. Older boys get to deal with relationship betrayals by girls they care about. And boys of all ages deal with the fear and reality of rejection in an even greater way than do girls.

Judas Iscariot is the greatest illustration in Scripture of rejection and betrayal, but Peter is also such an example. One betrayal ended the relationship with Christ. One did not. And the "13th disciple" who could not sell all that he had and follow Christ is a wonderful illustration of rejection that kept a relationship from going anywhere at all. And, of course, our Triune God deals with rejection and betrayal from all of us many times over the courses of our lives, and it seems that only a few of us actually persevere to the end in relationship with Him. So God gets this!

The model He sets is the one I am basing my strategy upon. But more than that, it is also the example that calls me to be willing to love despite the certainty of rejections and betrayals. If I love, I will be hurt. I can count on it. But if I don't love, I am already dead.

And then there is the issue of my own ability to reject someone who has exposed herself to me in some way, or my ability to betray those that I love and have made explicit or implicit commitments to love . . .

I think the guilt that is hardest to shake is the places where I have rejected someone who was emotionally vulnerable to me, or where I have betrayed someone who truly wanted me to keep my commitments. And it is that guilt -- forgiven and healed, but remembered nonetheless -- that calls me to take new risks in friendships while I strengthen and nurture existing friendships.

While our salvation is not earned, it is lived out as God's grace is poured into our real lives. The result is lives of active reconciliation, repentance, and restitution. My ethical commitment as His follower is to make the love of I Corinthians 13 and of Romans 12 and of John 14-16 the cornerstone for real action, keeping in mind that there will be a day when all is revealed before the judgment seat of Christ.

And so "the rules" for this "clique" we call the CHURCH should be this: we take care to not reject or betray one another! . . . not for silly things, certainly, but also not for the "big" things. After all, Jesus admonished us that the weeds should be allowed to grow with the crop so as to not unnecessarily injure the real crop. It will all be sorted out after the harvest.

May I be a person who so treasures each individual in my life that I never give them even the reason to worry about rejection or betrayal from me, let alone the reality. And may God make full amends and bring full healing to all those I have so injured to this day.

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