I hope that you are well rested today because that would mean that you listened last week and applied the principle of rest, but I also hope you are well rested because today we are going to look at a life app that is hard for many of us and that is trust. While there are many reasons why trusting others is hard, there are 2 that stand out: one is because of what we see and the other is because of where we have come from. Let’s start with what we see. It is hard for us trust people when what we see all around us are people who fail to live up to what they have said. Whether it is in our marriages and families, our relationships at work, or from our community and national leaders we are surrounded by people who make all kinds of promises but then fail to follow through on therm. As we enter into the final stages of the presidential election, we are confronted with this situation just about every day. The Republicans are quick to point out all the things that the president said he would do but didn’t do during the last 4 years and the Democrats are equally quick to point out the gaps and failures with Gov. Romney’s word. So every day what we see are leaders whom we have a hard time trusting which creates a climate which makes us wonder if we can trust anyone at all.
Not only does what we see make it difficult to trust, but so does what we have experienced in our own lives, or where we have come from. If we have personally experienced a lot of pain and brokenness because of mistrust and broken promises then it makes it that much harder for us to think about trusting anyone in the future. And if the failures of trust took place when we were children and teens from those we should have been able to trust like parents, teachers and coaches- it creates huge walls which make it hard to trust anyone as we move forward in life. If all we have known in the most significant relationship in our lives is the pain of broken trust, then learning to trust anyone is a challenge.
So what we see and what we have experienced make this life app difficult to apply – but not impossible. We can overcome what we see and we can overcome the pain of our past and learn to trust because trusting others is a choice. Whether it is with family, friends, coworkers or elected officials, trusting others is a choice we can make and to help us understand how to make this choice and what this app is all about we are going to look at a scripture that is familiar to many of us, 1 Corinthians 13. It is known as the love chapter because it talks a lot about love and what we will see here is that love and trust go hand in hand, so let’s look at 1 Cor. 13: 4-7.
Now the passage starts out pretty easily and makes perfect sense (13:4). We know this and can easily accept this. Love is patient and kind and we are ok with this, but then it gets a little more difficult. (13:5) Did you hear that last phrase? Love keeps no record of wrongs. Ok, this is hard because we not only know people who have compiled this kind of a record on us but if we were honest we would have to admit that we have made our own lists. We can remember the day and hour when someone hurt us. We can remember the details of when we were wronged and the very words that were said and even the tone of voice that was used, so when it says that love keep no record of wrongs – that’s hard, but it is what love is all about and it is a choice we make. We saw this a few weeks ago with the app of forgiveness – love is about letting go of the grudge so that we experience freedom and life. It really does mean we keep no record of wrongs.
As hard as that might seem, it is about to get harder, let’s look at 13:7. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ALWAYS … not when we feel like it, not when it’s easy, not when it doesn’t really matter but always which tells us that the kind of love we are talking about here is not an emotion. If love were just a warm feeling we have in our heart, it wouldn’t be something we do at all times, but because that word always appears 4 times, we know that love is not a feeling but a choice we make. And when it says that love always trusts, we begin to see that not only is love a choice we make, but so is trust. While it is hard to trust because of what we see around us and what we have experienced in life it is not impossible because trusting others isn’t left up to our emotions and feelings, it is a choice we make when we choose to love.
So what does it look like to choose trust in relationships? What does the application of trust look like in relationships? Here’s how I think it works: in every relationship there will be gaps between expectations and experience. Here’s an example, when I was growing up, my parents expected me to be home by 11PM and when it was after midnight and I still wasn’t home, when my actions didn’t match up with the expectations, there was a gap. When we expect our spouse to follow the budget that we all agreed upon but then open this month’s Visa bill and see some unexpected charges – there is a gap. When we expect our coworkers to carry their load on a project but it comes time for the presentation and their tasks aren’t done – there is gap. When we elect politicians and expect them to follow through on their campaign promises and they get into office and do things differently – there is a gap. So in every relationship there are gaps between what we expect and what we experience and the truth is that we choose what goes in the gap.
When confronted with these kinds of gaps in relationships we choose what fills the void, will we choose to believe the best or will we assume the worst. When we choose to trust we are choosing to believe the best in the other person. When I was in high school and didn’t come home by 11 the night after the church play and I didn’t call home so my parents had no idea where I was – there was a gap. Now when I did get home around 1 AM the gap was filled with a lot of frustration and a lot of questions, but in time my parents allowed me to explain and they believed the best. Now I was still grounded for a while, but because they believed the best in me, because they chose trust, the relationship was restored.
When we believe the best we narrow the gap and relationships can grow stronger, it doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences and at times discipline, but relationship can remain strong. When we assume the worst we broaden the gap and the relationship weakens. If my parents had not allowed me to explain what had happened or if they simply assumed I would never follow the rules again and continue to make bad choices, the gap would have grown and the relationship would have crumbled. So how we choose to fill this gap makes all the difference. While many times the gap has been created by the actions of the other person, we are the ones who choose what to do with that gap, we choose what will fill the gap – will we choose suspicion or will we choose trust?
In Deuteronomy 30 Moses is near the end of his life and he is encouraging the people to be faithful and he says to them, I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live. Later Joshua reminds the people again that they have choices to make in life and faith. He told them, choose this day whom you will serve. What Joshua and Moses make clear to us is that we all have choices to make in life, in faith and in all relationships. When we face this kind of gap will we choose trust and love or will we choose suspicion? Will we think the best and narrow the gap, will allow our love to bend toward the other and strengthen the relationship, or will we give into suspicion and assume the worst about those who have not met our expectation which will weaken the relationship?
This really is our choice. We can’t control the actions of others but we can control the choices we will make in response to those actions. We can choose to trust our spouses, children, coworkers and even our elected officials and believe the best about them or we can assume the worst. In many ways, this is where faith comes in; faith not only in the other person but faith in God. Can we trust God enough to help us narrow the gap and believe the best. God believes the best. God believes the best about us and others, God always chooses trust which means that we should as well.
Another reason we should choose trust is because choosing suspicion and assuming the worst will never strengthen or improve a relationship. Think about it, how do you feel when you know someone doesn’t trust you? Does it make you want to go deeper in that relationship or pull away? When children know that parents don’t trust them it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, after all why be trustworthy if no one is going to trust me anyway. If my parents never trusted me again, there would not have been much desire on my part to try and be trustworthy. When spouses know there is no trust in their marriage there is no motivation to move forward and seek reconciliation or understanding. Nothing good happens when we choose to be suspicious, but when we choose to trust people we open the door for healing and hope. When we choose to trust people we make room for love to take root and give life to the relationship.
So we need to apply this trust app every time we experience a gap in a relationship. Every time our experience doesn’t meet expectation we need to make the decision to think the best and give the other person the benefit of the doubt. When our children are out past curfew we need to give them the benefit of the doubt and give them time to explain. When the Visa bill comes we need to listen before we jump to conclusions. Even with our elected officials, ok, I know this hard, but even with our elected officials we need to believe the best about those who are on the other side of the political aisle and not paint people out to be evil leaders who either don’t care about people or don’t care about our country. We choose what fills the gap and we fill the gap with love by thinking the best. I think the Apostle Paul encourages us to do this – look at Philippians 4:8. What is noble and right and admirable is to love others – which means thinking the best about them in all situations.
But let’s also be honest and talk about what we need to do when trusting others is not the best or healthiest option. The reality is that some relationships are so toxic and some people have proven themselves over time to be so untrustworthy that we can not, and should not, trust them. In these situations, what should we do? Well, Jesus makes that clear to us. He says, if you can’t trust them – confront them.
In Matthew 18, Jesus gives us some of the most detailed teaching on relationships we have in the gospels and he says that if someone sins against us, in other words if the experience doesn’t match the expectations, we are to go to them and point it out, look at Matthew 18:15. We confront them – not to accuse and put them down but in an effort to forgive and restore the relationship. We confront people about the situation in love with the goal being to restore trust. Now if they refuse to listen and if they refuse to understand their problems or acknowledge their sin, then Jesus says we are to take someone with us and confront them again in love, but if the gap still can be lessened then Jesus says we are to separate ourselves from the person – Matthew 18:16-17. What Jesus is saying here is that if trust can’t be established we are to walk away. So choosing to love doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of over and over and over again and trust doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to be beaten down – if we can’t choose trust then we need to choose to confront.
Now the problem is that many times when we struggle to trust someone we don’t confront the person directly, we will either remain silent and hold on to the grudge, or we talk to anyone and everyone else. But gossip doesn’t strengthen a relationship and holding a grudge doesn’t do anything but destroy us, so neither of those choices are very good. If we struggle to trust we need to confront the person in love and seek to bring understanding and if that doesn’t work, then we need to walk away. Somewhere we have gotten the idea that walking away from relationships that are unhealthy is never the right thing to do, but it can be. There were many relationships that Jesus allowed to end and he says in Matthew 18 that at times we need to separate ourselves from those we can’t trust. So if we have confronted the person and provided opportunities for healing and hope in the relationship and it hasn’t worked, then it is ok to walk away, not in anger but in peace.
As we close, I want to share with you 5 commitments that can help build trust in any relationship. They come from North Point Church in Atlanta, GA, and while they are commitments they have made among their staff, I think they can work in every relationship. You can find these on the next steps in your bulletin.
1. When there is a gap between expectation and experience, I will believe the best.
2. When other people assume the worst, I will come to your defense.
3. If what I experience over time erodes my trust, I will come directly to you to talk about it.
4. When I am not able to deliver on a promise (when my actions create the gap) I will inform you ahead of time.
5. When you confront me about the gaps I have created, I will tell you the truth.
If we can apply these steps in every relationship – trust will grow and our relationships will get stronger.