Our planet’s shorelines, canyons, and deserts bear the marks of gradual destruction from wind, water, and ice. Most days the small creek near my house minds its own business, but in the spring, heavy rains turn it into a small river. Over time, soil erosion has changed the course of the creek.
A different kind of erosion is damaging families, churches, and nations today. Trust erodes when politicians spend more time spewing venomous accusations against the rival party than trying to solve the nation’s problems. Trust takes a hit when a company suddenly lays off dozens of employees, demoralizing those who remain. Trust erodes when a popular athlete loved by local fans leaves because a rival team offers him a more lucrative contract. It erodes when church leaders engage in bruising public quarrels that confuse and divide their flocks.
God forgives all kinds of sins, but betrayal of trust leaves deep scars that take time to heal. That’s why adultery is so damaging to a marriage, and hypocrisy is so destructive to the church. In healthy relationships and organizations, love and trust bind people together, but low trust levels make it difficult to move forward as a team. How can we be united if we don’t trust one another?
Ephesians chapter four sheds light on the relationship between unity and trust. Deception, sensuality, greed, theft, bitterness, rage, slander, malice, and other such sins damage trust and divide people—and they display childish immaturity rather than mature love. The apostle Paul used a startling metaphor: “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves” (Ephesians 4:14). Imagine the scene: a tiny defenseless baby floating helplessly on a boat tossed by the wind and waves. It’s a disaster in the making.
When interpersonal conflicts, personality clashes, and differences of opinion arise, do we act childish, or do we act like adults? Christian unity requires the emotional maturity to bear with one another in love—to stand up for our beliefs without disrespecting others and their views. Building up the body of Christ must take precedence over our personal preferences and the need to get our own way.
What attitudes build trust? Humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love, making every effort “to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (vv. 2, 3).
What beliefs build trust? Mature mutual commitment to the core values listed in verses 4 through 6: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God the Father of all.
There’s no shortcut for building trust. Trust grows when our actions match our words—when we do what we say over the long haul and demonstrate kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (v. 32)—consistently “speaking the truth in love” (v. 15).
Christians shouldn’t be gullible. Let’s avoid false teachers and bogus ideas, but let’s never become so skeptical that we refuse to trust wholeheartedly in God. According to National Geographic, “No rock is hard enough to resist the forces of weathering and erosion,” but I disagree. God is our Rock. No storm can wear him down or erode his trustworthiness. Jesus is “Faithful and True” (Revelation 19:11). As we grow in his likeness, we will become more faithful and true ourselves, bound together by our common devotion to the Master.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2017, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.