It’s an age old problem. Those we love the most, have known the longest, trusted with the most of ourselves, are the ones that have the potential to hurt us the most. This is exactly why so many people walk around with a wall around their hearts, keeping people at arm’s length to prevent potential heart break. The benefits of love are simply not worth the risk of hurt and rejection.
Prevention of pain explains a lot in ministry and life in general. Ministry leaders don’t stay places long because it hurts less when those you serve reject you or betray you if you haven’t known them long and you don’t have much invested in them. Marriages are short term agreements instead of lifetime covenants because it’s easier to find someone else than to work through the hurt caused by someone who knows you deeply. We are connected in more social networking ways than ever before in the history of humanity, but we “connect” through the barrier of technology. There is a very thin line between love and hate because great hate is usually only generated by a betrayal of great love. Some people learn this and decide it’s not worth the risk.
I was reminded of this today when my feelings were bruised in a ministry situation by someone I have known for a long time. My first thought was, “That wouldn’t have bothered me so bad if I weren’t at my home church and it hadn’t been someone who knows me.” Knowing and being known opens us up to hurt. And no one wants to be hurt. As humans, our favorite idol is our own pleasure and happiness, and we will often decrease our own happiness to decrease our risk for pain.
But then I thought about Jesus, the One who Scripture claims knows all of our pain and temptation yet never sinned. I thought about how painful it must have been for Him to be betrayed by Judas, one of his disciples, someone He had poured Himself into for three years. Three years is a long term relationship in our time, and they had been together almost constantly in those three years. They shared life together. They knew one another and were known by one another. Three years worth of betrayal were felt in that kiss in the garden.
But even more than that, how much did it hurt for Him to have been rejected by His chosen people? Jesus had known and had been known by His people since the time of Abraham. For eternity, before the foundation of the world, Jesus knew His creation, He knit them together one at a time in their mother’s wombs. He revealed himself in creation; day after day for thousands of years, He put himself out there, opened himself up to the risk of rejection.
Then He came to earth and was rejected. Rejected by His chosen people. Rejected by the very creation into which He had poured His own Image. Rejected by His physical family, who declared Him to be crazy and warned towns to steer clear of Him. Rejected by His spiritual family in the Temple, by those who knew the most about Him but really didn’t know Him at all. He was literally rejected to death.
Jesus knew the thin line between love and hate, but He determined that his hate of sin and separation from His creation outweighed his love for himself and his own happiness. His love for His Bride and His Father outweighed His hate for His own pain and suffering.
So when we face the tough times in relationships, those times when we are hurt, rejected, betrayed, how do we handle it? Do we run away, protecting ourselves and our hearts, or do we remember that Jesus stuck with it for the long haul? When our hearts are breaking, do we remember that Jesus poured Himself into relationships for centuries and was rejected, yet still stuck with it?
When we have times that we feel like no one understands the pain we feel, remember that Jesus invested more time in relationships than any of us, ALL of time, and experienced an equal amount of heartbreak.
He knows what heartbreak feels like and He wants to heal yours.