So much of life in the world involves trust.
Sometimes we give it automatically, sometimes warily, sometimes never in a million years and sometimes we get burnt.
Trust isn’t easily given or regained. Someone who has studied ‘trust’ for three decades wrote recently that not only in Australia, but also worldwide, trust is at a low ebb. We could probably have worked that out for ourselves…
Not only are we suspicious of whether we can trust people standing in front of us, online we can’t be sure that what we are reading and seeing is real either.
Today I was offered money if I take an earlier flight next week. I was going to ‘bin it’, but discovered it was legitimate. On the other hand the prize I thought I had won the other day from someone presenting as Woolies was not real. Who and what can I trust in my inbox each day?
We have steadily lost trust in entire institutions – politics, banks, churches (including our own) and more recently the hospital system, some aged care providers and even our national cricket team. In marriage many are not sure if they can trust their partner for all sorts of reasons.
At the same time that we look to our institutions and their leadership to step up and save us in some way, we also trust them less and less. We will soon be asked again to trust someone with running the country.
Life in the Church is built on trust. It involves trusting God individually and together. God comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ, risking and giving us his everything. He makes himself vulnerable to us, he promises and gives us himself, forgiveness, and heaven itself, and he trusts that we will respond to him with thanks and the trust in him that we call faith.
Our life together as his church is based on our common trust in Christ. As we express that life together, we also need to trust each other in all sorts of ways too, and sooner or later, we are going to be let down, because unlike God, we default to self-centredness.
That can lead to mistrust, distrust and distance. It can lead to guessing and second guessing each other’s motives and those of our leaders. It can lead to disconnect between us and tragically even a distrust of and disbelief in God himself. “If that’s what his church is like…”
All the institutions listed above are trying to regain and rebuild trust. As for the Church, we are not interested in being trusted as an institution for our own sake, but trusted so that we don’t discredit the faith we give witness to, trusted so the Gospel gets a hearing rather than automatic rejection.
So I encourage you to think about and discover in the New Testament the things that flesh out and give witness to the God who can be trusted.
I encourage you to attend to misunderstandings and offence between you quickly and in godly ways, so that it doesn’t lead to disconnect. I encourage you to work together to ensure your congregations are a safe place for all as a witness to the community of the God, whose word can be trusted and whose presence is a safe place to be. Work at responsibly building and regaining trust where it has been betrayed.
Above all, I encourage you to trust God together – with the future of his church, for your life together in it, with what goes wrong between you, with your families, with our nation and his world, and with your ultimate salvation.
I encourage you not to live in fear and mistrust, but to trust Christ’s unfailing love together and to demonstrate to each other that the Church is a safe place where we can be honest and vulnerable to each other.
It seems to me that we are going to need to trust God more than ever in the way ahead for the LCA and to trust each other as well.
May God help us to give each other good reason to do just that.
‘I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever’ – Psalm 52:8
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