“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, p. 537)
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Behold, we did not know this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?" (Proverbs 24:10-12)
"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it'—when you have it with you." (Proverbs 3:27-28)
(Disclaimer: I have not been able to write for a while, and I am not sure if I will keep this piece. Writing has been quite the struggle for almost a year now. But I not only have concerns regarding my skill, I also have many thoughts that are still incubating, and so sharing is riskier. I’m processing quite a bit. Still, I cannot wait to have everything figured out. The tone and form of this piece comes off stronger than I usually prefer, and it reminds me more of some of the 16th-19th century writers I’ve been reading, and while good for them, I’m not so sure it’s good for me, and I hope it doesn’t come off as artificial—or as though I’m pontificating. I also recommend that any Scripture references be read in their own context. I also plan to write a more hopeful follow-up.)
Of course this is the time of year when people most often invoke the name of one of Dickens’s most popular characters: Ebenezer Scrooge. Known for his greed and avarice and hatred of Christmas, people often use him as a caution against materialism and bitterness or an admonition towards generosity and joy. However, as the quote above illustrates (and many other places in the novel could as well, but this is not a literary piece) one might say that he is also the picture of one who has betrayed his fellow man in that he has refused to give others justice (and mercy).
Betrayal can take many forms, but it is always like murder. Whether betrayal means inflicting malicious harm or withholding good when it is in your power to act, it always destroys. It may damage a person’s body or mind. It may attack his character. It may crush her spirit or wound her soul. It can be a poisoned arrow in the hand of the devil to wound a person’s faith. It often stems from hatred, or at least what most would consider selfishness, but it can come from cowardice, carelessness, and even self-righteousness.
Of course we recognize things like abuse, lying, slander (character assassination), gossip, stealing, etc. as ways to betray others. But betrayal is breaking a trust, and sometimes the best way to shatter a person’s trust is to step aside, turn your head, cover yours ears, and allow evil to win.
If you would like to make matters even worse, you can refuse to listen or believe when asked for help. You can refuse to repent and expect all to go on as normal, all while promising to protect and support others, pretending to empathize, and pontificating on repentance—”God, I thank you that I am not like other people” (Luke 18:11).
You can pin the blame back on the one who was suffering or deny it completely, giving more credence to the abusers. Or you can solely blame the abusers and take no responsibility for your negligence, no matter if you previously promised to protect, whether directly or through taking on positions of authority or responsibility for others—and in that case you may find the unmanly convenience of hiding behind institutions and so-called policies and protocol, whether the institutions know of your behavior or not. You have no trouble tying up heavy loads for others to carry, why should you lift a finger to help them?
At the end of the day, one of the best ways to seal a betrayal is to never look back. So much greater is your need to maintain the image of your own righteousness than any comfort, reconciliation, understanding, friendship, bearing one another’s burdens, or mourning with those who mourn.
Like the unjust judge in the parable, you refused to listen to the cries of the oppressed, who had no choice but to turn to you. (Except that wicked judge eventually gave in, albeit for the wrong reason and as a way for Christ to highlight the goodness of God, admittedly the real purpose of the parable). And now, not too unlike Cain, you say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9) You have washed your hands of the whole affair. What else is to be done with it? But your brother’s blood still cries from the ground.
Paul’s words, though harsh, would unfortunately apply to you: “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm, the Lord will repay him for his deeds” (2 Tim. 4:14). And his advice regarding your refusal to soften your heart would be not unlike Christ’s own directive to treat the hardhearted brother “as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17). For now you have not only refused to listen to your brother (or sister) regarding the repeated abuse at the hands of another, but you have refused to acknowledge even the possibility of the (often deeper) wounds you have so coldly inflicted and the duties you assumed—perhaps as friend, perhaps as leader, or perhaps simply (if it could be simply) as a Christian. Such an unmanly and un-Christian behavior is the very antithesis of brotherly love. And now we are back to the beginning—for betrayal does come from hatred. In this case, it may not be the fiery hatred that consumes, but rather the icy, barren hatred that starves both itself and others.