There’s a song stuck in my head from our mission trip: “Is what I’m doing or thinking or saying building trust or undermining trust?” I learned it from a woman named Katie who has one of the most gentle, Christ-like spirits of anyone I’ve met in a long time. I think if God wanted to teach the world something, he would get the best results using someone like Katie whose demeanor builds trust. Being an impulsive, opinionated firebrand, I am convicted by those who actually embody the gospel that I love so much in theory.
We’re doing a sermon series on Ephesians this summer so I’ve been previewing the chapters to figure out what I’m going to preach. In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to live in a way that builds trust and unity:
I therefore the prisoner of the Lord beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Over the last couple of years, “unity” and “orthodoxy” have often been pitted against each other within evangelical Christian discourse. The people who want “unity” are pegged “moral relativists” while the people who want “orthodoxy” are called “judgmental fundamentalists.” Obviously this is a false dichotomy. What if the goal is indeed to converge at the truth but to journey in a spirit of patient trust-building rather than theological arm-wrestling and conquest?What would it look like to have passionate and Biblically-grounded theological convictions which you care enough about fruitfully sharing with others that you do so with patience, humility, and gentleness? What would it look like to give more attentiveness to building trust than to coming up with razor sharp arguments that demolish our opponents’ ideologies?
The blogosphere often rewards those who engage in trust-undermining behavior: hit jobs, take-downs, mockery, deconstruction. Those are the pieces that get the most hits for me. A merciless tractor beam is always tugging me in that direction. My struggle is that I really do believe that poisonous heresies out there need to be called out. I believe that certain theologies make people act like Pharisees. The question is how can I talk about these issues in a way that builds trust and, moreover, in a way that respects God’s prerogative to teach me through those whom I think need to be taught by me or even those I think are dangerous heretics. It’s definitely a work in progress.