“I don’t trust you.”
“I’ll never be able to trust you again.”
Okay, we’ve all either said it or heard it. That terrible pain of trust broken. It happens in dating relationships, marriages, churches and jobs. It happens between parents and children and among friends, and coworkers. Pastors, leaders, church people, teammates, soldiers… wherever two or three are gathered, there will be broken trust in their midst.
When that happens, then what?
It’s tricky, because we have to navigate between two rocky shoals: GULLIBILITY on the left and CYNICISM on the right. Neither is wise, and neither expresses Christ’s life in us.
As always, Jesus is our example. There’s some cool stuff tucked away in the original language of John 2:24 (here it is in a few translations, same verse):
- “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,” John 2:24, NKJV.
- “But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people” John 2:24, NRSV.
- “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men,” John 2:24, NAS95.
- “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.” John 2:24, NIV.
This is really important. The text has a double object, one direct and the other indirect. It doesn’t say, “Jesus didn’t trust them.” It says, “Jesus didn’t trust himself to them.”
There’s a difference.
To say, “I don’t trust you” implies that you expect other people to live up to your expectations, and if they don’t, you will sever (distance, break, minimize, ignore, divorce, cold shoulder) the relationship. I don’t think this was Jesus’ way of relating. He didn’t run around setting up moral hurdles and expecting people to jump them before they could be his buddies.
Jesus did not weigh people down with the burden of trustworthiness.
“I can’t trust you anymore” is a relational sledgehammer. Whoever says it has total control, and sends the other person on an endless quest: to prove yourself trustworthy.
How? When do you finally earn that merit badge? How perfect must you be?
Doesn’t the “I don’t trust you” statement reveal as much about the person who says it as about the person who violated the confidence? Shouldn’t we be honest and say, “I think you’re going to ______ [betray] me again, so I’ll keep you at arm’s length.” The other person can say, “No way!” or whatever, but THERE IS NO WAY TO PROVE IT.
And there never will be.
“I don’t trust you” forces a relational stalemate, which is exactly what the person who says it wants. Call it revenge. Call it fear. Call it control. Call it passive-aggressiveness. Call it HEALTHY BOUNDARIES. Call it anything but lack of trust. You do trust the person TO BE IMPERFECT to some degree — big or small — and you might as well say so.
Soooooo…. does that mean Jesus just trusted everyone and let them use him as a doormat?
He didn’t entrust himself to them, says the Scripture. That means, he could be in relationship, and expect people to be people: imperfect, flawed, hormonal, inconsistent, self-seeking, while simultaneously generous, kind, fun, giving, and honest. “For he knew all men.”
YOU CAN’T HAVE LOVE WITHOUT A LEAP OF FAITH…
He neither sacrifices his power…
Nor does he weigh them down with the burden of trustworthiness!
“who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;” 1 Peter 2:23, NKJV.
Commit yourself to God, and trust everybody else to be themselves, as you have seen their lives, able to be beautiful and horrible on the same day.
When my youth group kids would ask me, “Don’t you trust me?” I would say, “Of course I trust you. I trust you to be exactly what you are: a good-hearted, hormonal, adolescent with mushy values and immature judgments.” Okay, maybe not that exactly, but that was the gist.
I trust you to be you. That’s a mixed bag, isn’t it. And you should trust me to be me. Yes, I’m a pastor, but I’m a human, and a man, and a big boy too. Trust me on that basis.. and don’t pin your hopes on me.
Does that excuse me from trying to be a trustworthy person? Or you?
No. But it does mean that we can be in relationship, in spite of our relative untrustworthiness. We’ll each keep our shields up as much as needed to not be in danger, and not be devastated when we let each other down.
And, we will gradually lower our shields as time goes on, and enjoy an intimacy as deep as flawed people can enjoy.
Don’t entrust yourself to abusive people. Don’t entrust yourself to evil people. Don’t entrust yourself to dangerous people. Jesus didn’t. You don’t have to either.
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” Psalms 20:7, NKJV.