During the turbulent pandemic year of 2020, war erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the landlocked South Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh. A historically disputed area, the new conflict was the spillover of pent-up past grievances and displaced and traumatized tens of thousands of people. Christians from other parts of the world sacrificially sent aid to help.
Once the conflict died down, local authorities recognized that emotional and spiritual support for the suffering was needed if wholeness was to be realized. Who could they turn to for help? They asked those who had earned trust through their sacrificial giving and acts of love. They asked if Christians could help with trauma counseling.
We are saved by, as Martin Luther wrote, “…a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favour that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.” Abraham believed and trusted God and this is what made him righteous (Genesis 15:6). This unwavering trust in God’s unlimited trustworthiness is what the Apostle Paul calls all with ears to hear to: “However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5).
Trusting your own work and way is ungodly. Trusting God is righteousness. But can God be trusted? Perhaps that is the larger question.
God is exceedingly trustworthy. God says what he does and does what he says. God is a covenant-maker and a covenant-keeper. God keeps his promises. In his dealing with the unresolved and unreconciled realities of a world marred by sin and human rebellion that is determined to prove itself and earn its own way, God steps in to earn our trust.
God had proved himself faithful since calling Abram to leave his people (Genesis 12:1-3) and so the withered Chaldean could fully trust the LORD’s promise to give him descendants as numerous as the stars despite being childless (Genesis 15:1-6). God earns trust and this, like food and shelter given to the displaced in a war-torn land, leads to greater and deeper possibilities for healing and transformation.
Jesus comes earning trust. Jesus joined people with an integrity and congruency of words and acts earned a bold trust that, like Martin Luther described, awakened a bold trust in God’s grace. The fishermen who followed Jesus had cast nets unsuccessfully, but they trusted the carpenter’s word and brought in a haul. Peter’s response? “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8)!
As Jesus’ way became more socially disruptive and the crowds began jumping off the bandwagon he asked his closest friends if they had lost confidence too. Again, it was Peter who responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). His words were trustworthy because his acts, in keeping with the promise-keeping God, were trust-building. When his words became further controversial – his opponents pointing out he is making himself God (John 10:33) – Jesus says, “…even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38). Jesus’ works earned trust, even when his words were incomprehensible and even reprehensible.
And, most beautifully, when rejected and nailed to a cross, Jesus remains trustworthy and faithful to the promises of God. “He was in agony,” Tim Keller writes, “and he looked down at us – denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him – and in the greatest act of love in history, he STAYED.” The Jesus way is to bring shalom by earning trust.
“He was in agony,” Tim Keller writes, “and he looked down at us – denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him – and in the greatest act of love in history, he STAYED.” – Tim Keller
In the unresolved and unreconciled realities of lives and communities – and even war zones – followers and disciples of Christ must earn the trust that opens doors for wholeness and transformation.
Slow down and consider. Where is the Holy Spirit giving you eyes to see that which needs wholeness and transformation? Are you trusted there? Or are you deemed suspicious? Do you believe you can simply ride in and save the day with words – even holy words? Is such a way the Jesus’ way? How is God asking you to stay with the people and earn trust? What will be the posture, price and pace of such godly trust that can lead to a bold and living trust in God’s grace?
The way forward for ambassadors of Christ is the Jesus way of earning trust. How are you being led by the Spirit of God to build such trust?