Our community is built on trust.
- We trust that our neighbors are going to look out for us.
- We trust that when our light at the intersection turns green, the light for the cross-street will turn red.
- We trust that our educators have nothing but the best interest of our kids in mind.
- We trust that restaurants are clean and safe.
There are so many things in which we place our trust, most of which we don’t even think about. We simply trust.
Not often, but occasionally, things happen that break our trust. And when they do, we deal with them. But for the most part, those things in which we place our trust do not let us down. And when we trust, our community flourishes and grows.
Unfortunately, we seem to be living in a world where the value placed on trust is diminishing. As the volume of political and social rhetoric increases, it becomes hard and harder to trust.
There are forces in the world that are actively working to erode our trust. Accusations are made by those who have no evidence. These people are not interested in “fixing a problem.” No, their goal is to break the trust on which our community is built. And in the process, relationships are fractured.
In Exodus, chapter 20, God is giving to Moses what has come to be known as the “Ten Commandments.” These are the expectations God set for how a community would live together. In chapter 16, God commands: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Simply put, God says “do not say things that are not true.”
The reformer, Martin Luther, wrote an explanation of this commandment that I think is powerful. He wrote: “We are to revere and love God so that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor. Instead, we defend them, we speak well of them, and we explain their actions in the kindest way.”
In a healthy, growing community, we think and speak well of our neighbors. God is reminding us in this commandment to put the best possible construction on the actions and decisions of those around us. We assume the best, not the worst. There is nothing wrong with healthy conversation, dialogue and debate. But when these exchanges are distorted with untruths and accusations, it does more than shut down a conversation, it begins to destroy the community that God has created.
Resist the urge to listen to those who cry out about hidden agendas and conspiracies. Resist the urge to be suspicious of each other. Instead, choose to build community. Choose to ask questions, to listen and to learn. Do not give power to those who speak with anger. Choose to follow God’s commandment and to look at the works of our friends and neighbors in the best possible light.
Choose to trust.
This piece originally appeared in the Owatonna People’s Press, July 17, 2021