christian thoughts about today's issues
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Who Do You Trust?

In a May 2010 web article, the question was asked: “What do you see as the biggest struggle or issue currently facing Christianity?”  (http://www.casadeblundell.com/jonathan/the-biggest-struggle-currently-facing-christianity/)  One response from Angus Mackie of the UK said: “In Western Society there is a crisis due to a breakdown of trust. Who do people trust? Politicians/ banks/ churches/ adults/ police/ scientists? I hasten to add that I am not particularly thinking about the recent problems facing the Roman Catholic Church but these do form part of the problem. All have had a bad press. I believe that Christians in privileged societies need to return to basics and live Christ-like lives that build trust and point individuals to the Master we serve. Why should non-Christians trust Christ if we do not live loving, humble, obedient, self-sacrificing lives in the Master’s way? ?Rabboni (my Great One) let me be trustworthy for Your sake!”

The Bible makes it clear that Christians are supposed to place their trust in Jesus Christ, and in Christ alone.  Many passages underscore this, including I Timothy 4:10 (“For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.”), I Timothy 6:17, Hebrews 2:23, II Corinthians 1: 9 and 10, and II Corinthians 3:4.   But there are others in our daily lives that we really need to place some level of trust in, else we wouldn’t be able to function on a personal level in society or even in daily life.

Consider the results of a US nation-wide poll related to trust conducted by Gallup in 2010. (http://www.pollingreport.com/values.htm): People were asked “How would you rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields?”  Respondents rated the following categories “High or Very High”:

 

Nurses……………………………………81

Military Officers……………………..73

Druggists / Pharmacists………….71

Grade School Teachers…………..67

Medical Doctors……………………..66

Police Officers…………………….….57

Clergy……………………………….……53

Day Care Providers ……………….47

Judges……………………………….…..47

Auto Mechanics……………….……28

Nursing Home Operators…….…26

Bankers……………………………….…23

TV Reporters……………………….…23

Newspaper Reporters…….……..22

Local Officeholders………….…….20

Lawyers…………………….……..……17

Business Executives……..…..……15

State Officeholders………..…..….12

Advertising Professionals…..…..11

Members of Congress………..……9

Car Salespeople…………….……..….7

Lobbyists………………..……………..…7

 

 

It seems to me that there are many lessons to be learned from this data, and perhaps several legitimate perspectives from which to view it.  For example, it seems to reflect a kind of “degree of general loathing”.  Those professions near the bottom are the professions commonly regarded as the typical untrustworthy types: Lawyers, Executives, Advertisers, Politicians, Congress Members, Car Salesmen, and so on.  These are certainly fields I would hope my children would avoid as avocations.

Another perspective would be a comparative one: It is interesting to look at the comparative ratings of clergy members and nurses, for example.  Clergy people are less often regarded as highly trustworthy than nurses, military officers, grade school teachers, doctors, and police officers.  There is a real message there about the loss of trust among the general public in clergy members specifically, and probably about a loss of trust in churches – perhaps even in God – among Americans.

A third approach would be to look at these numbers in light of major current events.  For example, is the comparatively low level of trust is clergy related to recent scandals among Catholic clergy members that have so often been reported in the news?  Is the loathsome view of trustworthiness among politicians – especially members of the US Congress driven at least in some measure by shenanigans like the “Cornhusker Kickback “and the “Louisiana Purchase” that accompanied the passage of Obamacare, stories about “Cold Cash Jefferson” who was found with thousands of dollars hidden in his freezer, and so on?  Probably so.

Then there is a more practical, day-to-day aspect of trust in our lives.  How much do you trust your spouse?  How much does your spouse trust you?  How would your children respond if they were asked: “Has your parent ever lied to you?”   It’s not just a question of “Who do you trust?” – It’s also a question of “Can YOU be trusted?”.

Would your son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle, nephew or niece follow your guidance on day-to-day matters like which clothes look good on them, who is a good hair dresser, or what new restaurants they should try?  Very likely, because there really isn’t much risk involved in trusting you there.  How about things that are a bit more important, such as recommendations about financial planners, stocks to invest in, recommendations for a blind date? More risk is involved, and generally fewer people will follow the advice of less trusted confidants.  Still more important elements include recommendations for baby sitters, day care centers for the kids, long term care facilities for aging parents, and exactly how much do you trust that young man that is dating your daughter?  Then there are those items that comprise the acid test: Whether to enter the military, whether a certain person would likely be a good spouse for you, and whether a person is to be trusted as the executor of your will or to act on your behalf as part of your living will, should decisions about whether to treat you in the event that tragedy strikes, and you cannot make those decisions for yourself.  It’s harder to trust when the decision being made is the determination of your life or death.

Trust is an interesting thing.  Sometimes it’s learned – like the trust between a parent and child.  Sometimes it’s earned – like the trust between an employee and his supervisor.  Other times, it just comes from experience – like trusting that the electricity will be there when you need light urgently in the middle of the night.  One of the oddities of trust is that it isn’t uniform. For example, I think most of us wouldn’t think twice about stepping between our loved ones and an armed aggressor.  Yet we don’t always trust that those same loved ones will unfailingly tell us the truth.  In addition, our trust is often tempered by other emotions and motivations.  For example, we might not tell a loved one the truth if we believe they will be offended, or will think less of us, or become angry.  I was sometimes less than truthful with my parents during my teens, and looking back on those times I think all these factors came into play.  Similar situations arise with spouses.  Remember that commercial: “Does this dress make me look fat?”  Whoa.  Some questions just aren’t worth answering.

In the end, as the Bible tells us, God alone is fully trustworthy, because God alone is both omniscient, and without sin.  He always knows the truth and He is incapable of lying.  As Christians, it’s our job to come as close to that as we can, because we represent God to non-Christians, and because we should reflect the attributes of God in our behavior toward one another.  That’s exactly the point of the question posed by Angus Mackie at the opening of this article: “Why should non-Christians trust Christ if we do not live loving, humble, obedient, self-sacrificing lives in the Master’s way?”  Because we are neither omniscient nor sinless, none of us is fully trustworthy.  But the closer we come to emulating Jesus Christ, the more trustworthy we become.

Mackey was right, in my view, when he said: “Christians in privileged societies need to return to basics and live Christ-like lives that build trust and point individuals to the Master.”  Certainly those of us in privileged societies need this admonishment, but the truth is, so does everyone else.  I have seen a lot of poverty and despair and I have seen a lot of privilege and wealth.  It does often seem that those in this world who are less truthful and less forthcoming often rise to the top of various professions, and the less truthful and trustworthy excel in those professions listed at the bottom of the Gallup Poll described above.  I have certainly experienced it among the ranks of business executives in my own career, and I have observed it among the ranks of politicians as a Government employee.  As other blog postings have shown, the world turns increasingly away from Christ.  As it does so, it’s only natural, I think, that less trustworthy, less truthful individuals will achieve more success and higher standing among peers with similar values.  And that does not bode well for the Christian in secular society.  I often think that the desire to succeed in professional ranks and social standing is directly correlated to one’s willingness to compromise – even compromise about the truth, sacrificing the implicit trust of others.

Ultimately then, it comes down to following God and sacrificing some measure of success in this world by being truthful and trustworthy, or becoming the “go along with anything, say whatever you need to say, and do whatever you need to do” type that so often rises through secular society.  God’s guidance on this is clear.  Trust Him and take the narrower, harder road even though it requires sacrifice.  The crisis of trust that Mackey refers to isn’t a cause; it’s a symptom.  The cause is Christians who aren’t willing to make the sacrifices that Christ demanded of His followers.  It is simple disobedience and lack of Christian commitment – a story as old as Christianity itself.

What do you think?

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