Because of my background in dealing with religious cults (I spent five years on the board of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project in Berkeley), I was called to go to a city where a church leader had abused a small group of followers.
After years of exploiting his position in order to get money, sex, and power, he was finally found out.
This leader’s little flock was in dismay. How could their trusted leader have been so abusive in manipulating people, having many adulterous affairs and mishandling finances?
He pleaded with them to forgive him and trust him again. As I worked with the group, together we came to this conclusion: Forgiveness? Yes. Trust? No!
Biblical Truths about Forgiveness and Trust
Christ calls on us to forgive anyone who asks. Matthew 6:14-15 is emphatic:
If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
It is necessary to forgive. This would ideally be a transaction where, for instance, I could ask forgiveness for what I had done to you, hear the pain it caused you and the consequences of that pain, and hear the words, “I forgive you.”
In other words, I would ask for forgiveness, and it would be granted.
If the transaction was impossible or inappropriate, then, at least, you need to let go of the offense committed against you and turn it over to God. Romans 12:17 says,
Never pay back evil for evil…If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Note that we can afford to let go of anger and resentment over our offence because vengeance is not ours. It is in the Lord’s hands. He will inevitably repay.
You need to let go of your anger to God and allow him to take care of justice, or turn it over to the state (Romans 13:1-7) who, as a “minister of God” (Romans 13:4,6) exercises “wrath on the one who practices evil” (v. 4). You are not to seek revenge, but give it to God and/or the state to exercise it.
Forgiveness and Trust at Work
In a work situation, hopefully, there can be an asking for forgiveness and receiving it, especially if the two involved in conflict are believers. At least, it is important that anger and bitterness not be nurtured but turned over to God if the transactional forgiveness is impossible. There are situations so serious that they need to be brought up to corporate officers (or the courts), i.e. sexual abuse, harassment, theft, etc.
But even if forgiveness is sought and received from another, does that mean that we ought to trust again? Not necessarily.
Christ does not call us to trust everyone equally. He did not. Although many were initially impressed with the signs Jesus was doing and “believed” in him, Scripture says that he “was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need to have anyone bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25).
For the wounded members of the group with whom I met, it would not be wise to trust that leader again until he had demonstrated over time that he had changed his ways.
Forgiveness and Trust in Action
Often believers assume that a person claiming to be a believer in Christ should be trusted more than another person: If only it were true!
But it is not.
Believers are forgiven for their sins, but we all come to Christ with various character deficiencies. Our faults do not automatically disappear.
I have a friend, a pastor, who wanted to do a large renovation on a church. A contractor was recommended who was a Christian and had several glowing references that all checked out.
The contractor walked out after only a few months on the job, leaving about $50,000 worth of work undone.
When the church went to the courts to try to get their money back, they found out that they were the sixth client in line trying to get reimbursed. The contractor didn’t keep his word.
Just because someone claims to be a believer doesn’t mean that they are without fault, or even that they really are regenerate or a true believer.
One of the most important elements in business is trust. When I was at a conference in Williamsburg in early February, I had significant car problems. Some locals recommended American Pride Automotive (APA).
The people at APA make it their motto that theirs is a place you can “trust” in an industry where it is hard to know who you can trust. I met the owner, Charlie Marcotte, who told me about their commitment to honesty and service (even at their own expense), and fixing problems the right way and communicating clearly to customers.
APA also provides a Family Service Day every couple months when single parent families and military families with a deployed spouse can get an oil change, servicing, and even vehicle repair, all for free.
I experienced an entirely different feeling in this repair shop, which started from and is sustained by the owner’s faith in Christ. I had the sense (borne out by the many testimonials on their website) that this was “Finally a car repair shop I can trust.”
Trust is important in the automotive repair industry, but is also crucial to business in general.
Gaining a reputation for honesty is not only a witness to the gospel, but is the best way to do business. You can only give trust in proportion to the evidence that someone, or a company, is trustworthy.
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