By Dr. Gene Getz
During life’s journey most of us have been betrayed by someone we have loved and trusted. For some of you it may have been a marital partner—which indeed is a painful experience. As a pastor, I’ve walked alongside a husband or a wife many times doing my best to bring comfort and hope. In fact, as I was penning this article, I was prompted to pray for a couple I led to Christ years ago. I have watched, listened, and counseled! Sadly, the husband recently betrayed his wife by having a secret affair—of all things—with another woman who was a close friend of his own wife.
Can you imagine the emotional pain this caused the betrayed wife? Yet, I’ve watched her extend grace and forgiveness to her husband—and the other woman—in a way that is remarkable. The only answer in explaining her response is God’s grace.
No, this couple has not resolved all the issues in their marriage. They will no doubt experience psychological scars the rest of their lives, even though they’re working through the process of restoration. But this woman’s willingness to forgive her repentant husband is certainly central in the healing process. The amazing part of this story is that she was willing to forgive even before her unfaithful husband admitted his sin and asked for forgiveness! Again, this is an act of grace.
A New Testament Story
As I’ve reflected on this event and others, I’m reminded of Joseph who faced what he thought was a painful betrayal. Looking forward to marrying Mary, he discovered she was pregnant. Not knowing this was God’s doing, Joseph devised a plan to secretly terminate their engagement so that Mary wouldn’t be publicly embarrassed and disgraced. He did this because he was “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19).
The good news is that while he was making this plan, an angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph that Mary had conceived this child through the Holy Spirit. The baby in her womb was Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:20-21).
This is a powerful example for us all! Joseph deeply cared for Mary and obviously forgave her, even though he believed she had betrayed him. His actions “speak louder than words!”
All of us can learn a lesson from Joseph—regardless of the various acts of betrayal we’ve faced in our lives. Marital unfaithfulness, of course, is one of those events that cause deep inner pain. But I’ve witnessed other acts of betrayal that seem to be just as painful. I’ve also experienced these feelings of betrayal.
On one occasion I confronted a man with his sin against a young woman. About one in the morning a couple of days later, he torched the sofa in my office where he sat during our conversation. The fire quickly spread throughout the total building. Along with a number of my fellow pastors, I lost my entire library—which included at least forty different kinds of Bibles that I had used to study and teach the Word of God.
To this day, this man has never been brought to justice. Though the authorities know who he is and where he lives, they do not have enough evidence to bring him before the Grand Jury. As with many arsonists, he destroyed all the evidence.
My challenge was to forgive him and then to lead my congregation to forgive him. We did not condone his sin and even prayed for justice. However, we also took Jesus’ words seriously—“to love and pray for our enemy” (Matthew 5:43-44; 6:14-15).
Joseph’s example as well as Jesus’ exhortation to love and forgive those who sin against us yields a powerful “Principle to Live By”:
AS BELIEVERS WE ARE TO EXTEND MERCY AND GRACE
TOWARD THOSE WHO ARE LIVING OUT OF THE WILL OF GOD.
God’s Grace and You!
At this point, we all need to ask ourselves if we have taken steps to forgive those who have sinned against us. Have we extended mercy and grace, realizing that with God’s supernatural power we can? This is an act of the will regardless of how we feel. Furthermore, it does not mean we are justifying sinful behavior or continuing to enable it. And it doesn’t mean the perpetrator will respond or be brought to justice. When it involves betrayal in a marriage, that marriage may never be restored! But even then we can demonstrate God’s grace through forgiveness.
This article is based on the principle that is found on page 1284 in the Life Essentials Study Bible authored by Gene Getz and published by Broadman and Holman.
Note: to view a video message from Gene Getz entitled “Demonstrating Grace” Click here