Reflections on me trusting you

couple“I can’t trust you.”

“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.

jesusdisipclesTo 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?

tossedkidDoesn’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.”



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.


2 thoughts on “Reflections on me trusting you

  1. This is SO good, Bill. I have referred to this verse numerous times during my time with women in Celebrate Recovery. I’ll never forget how God got ahold of me through this verse years ago when I was reading My Utmost for His Highest. Chambers writes: “Our Lord never put His trust in any person. Yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, and never lost hope for anyone, because He put His trust in God first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for others. If I put my trust in human beings first, the end result will be my despair and hopelessness toward everyone. I will become bitter because I have insisted that people be what no person can ever be— absolutely perfect and right. Never trust anything in yourself or in anyone else, except the grace of God.”

    As you can imagine, trust is a big deal for women in recovery. In my testimony, the Lord showed me that my trust was really misplaced when I found it being broken in my marriage and I lost perspective. When I put my trust and my hope in the One who will never leave me nor forsake me, then I can be free to show grace to others in my life who are human and will likely let me down on occasion. I LOVE how you put it: “Trust me… but don’t pin your hopes on me.” Amen to that. I know Jeff has been grateful that he’s off the hook for being my “all in all.” 🙂

  2. Bill…

    Several months ago, you taught about Joseph, and how his brothers betrayed him, and sold him into slavery. We know from the story that when Joseph met them again (when they came to Egypt), he had tested their character on several occassions in order to determine whether or not they were telling the truth (regarding Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin; about their father, Jacob; how the youngest brother [“Joseph”] had died in earlier years, etc.). Apparently Joseph placed one brother, Simeon, through more extreme forms of testing (Gen 42:24), since he (Simeon) may have been the key player in selling Joseph into slavery years ago (or maybe Simeon openly contradicted Reuben’s statement of contrition in Gen 42:21-22). You might think that Joseph was coming “very close to crossing the line” with Simeon’s arrest and detention, however, suffice to say, he spared Simeon’s life. Simeon then had a good idea of what it felt like to be separated from the family as a result of being forced into bondage.

    We must be careful, though. Joseph harmed no one, and his tactics with the brothers were tests of character mettle. In fact, on several occassions, he reminded his brothers (after Joseph had finally revealed himself to them), that God’s big-picture intent was “to save many” with the end result that all “was intended for good (by God).”

    Notwithstanding these exhortations, when Jacob died, the brothers thought that Joseph would finally exact retribution. (Did anyone forget what happened to Simeon on the first round?) Joseph instead blessed them. The past was in the past.

    The key to the Joseph-story is that those who violate trust must be forgiven. One path for starting the path toward the restoration of trust is a recognition of the wrongs committed, as Reuben and the brothers acknowledged that what they did to Joseph was wrong in Gen 42:21-22. (The brothers did not know that Joseph understood their Hebrew, when they acknowledged this contrition among themselves.) Finally, over a period of time, and through various tests of character, Joseph established trust with his brothers, despite the fact that the brothers still did not trust him when Jacob died. Interesting.


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