It's a noble thing for Christians to assume the best of one another—especially where there isn't a track record of dishonesty or harmful behavior. The belief that God is working in our Sisters' and Brothers' lives is part of being the church. This doesn't remove the question of how to deal with life together when trust is broken.
As I follow the President's invitation to the Republicans to engage in health-care talks, I'm seeing a great deal of skepticism from both sides…perhaps rightfully so. I hear the President accusing the Republicans of having nothing to offer and universal obstructionism before the talks have even taken place—and despite any role he may have played in creating distance between himself and those he now needs to convince to come along with him if he hopes to get much done. On the Republican side, the assumption is that this is all a big dog-and-pony show. They ask, "Where have the invitations been over the last year of discussions? If Scott Brown hadn't won in Massachussetts, what are the chances this invitation would have happened?" They assume the President's gesture not genuine.
Needless to say, I'm not holding my breath for a bipartisan health care bill. Pardon my cynicism…it'll never happen. The reason? No one trusts each other. To be fair, there is good reason for this in Washington. How about the church?
It seems that much of the constipation of ministry in some churches has to do with distrust between ministers/elders, church/leadership, ministers/church, elders/church. As in Washington, there may be some good reasons for this distrust. For instance, in some places, church members have been critical and divisive whenever the possibility of change enters the picture. This causes leaders to either avoid change for fear, or to jam things through with little consideration for the Body. This reinforces the distrust of the Body. In other cases, leadership has done such a poor job of leading that the church doesn't trust leadership because they simply can't afford to. Trust hasn't been earned through consistent, spiritually-sound, and courageous decision-making.
My friend Mike Armour writes, "Trust-friendliness," even if it permeates climate, character, and conduct, is no assurance that a culture of trust actually exists, certainly not one strong enough to weather the demands of today's relentless competitive pace. A culture of trust (to trace the word "culture" back to its Latin roots) must be purposively and intentionally "cultivated," not just left to emerge on its own. For Trust-Centered Leadership™, creating a culture of trust is a strategic objective second to none."
In order for the church to prevail, we must get to a place where we choose to trust one another and to earn one another's trust simultaneously. If our default is set to "distrust" until trust is earned…all mistakes will be magnified and all victories seen from great distance. It will also take a looong time to develop and typically only one side is called on to behave in a trustworthy way. If we simply say, "trust us," without acting in ways that engender trust, we are asking too much…and real trust is unlikely to ever form.
When trust is broken, the only cure is forgiveness and the resolve to trust one another even as we strive to deserve one another's trust. When mistakes are made, the Fruit of the Spirit should guide us back to the forgiveness and importance of serving Christ together in God-honoring ways. If we decide not to seek trust relentlessly, we will miss out on the beauty of partnership in ministry.
It may be that trust can be "earned," but not without it being given to some extent. It can only rarely be given, without it being "earned," to some extent. This is perhaps not our ideal. It is reality.
Agree or disagree?