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A Matter of TrustA Matter of Trust
by Michael Harbour

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    Whom can you trust these days?

  • Wall Street wonders if CEO’s can be trusted to tell the truth about their companies.

  • Families wonder if they can trust priests with their children.

  • Forest rangers and fire fighters are stricken with grief, shock, and anger to learn that two of their own have started some of the worst fires they’ve ever faced!

  • Parents wonder if they can trust repair people, cable installers, or neighbors in their own home because of the violence that has been recently released on innocent children.

    We need to take note of problems that we are having. We need to ask ourselves about the trouble we see. Are there trends? Or is this just more heavily accented negative news from the ratings-hungry news media? After all, most people perceive crime and violence are horrible when in fact, nearly every category of violent crime has consistently gone down over the last decade.


    Do the high profile failures of Enron and WorldCom mean that CEO’s and accountants everywhere have become corrupt, subject to greed and to the pressure to succeed at all costs? I have Enron and Arthur Anderson folks here in my church family and I would trust them with my money, my family, and my life. The evil actions of a few are not necessarily indicative of the health of the whole.

    When you look at a minister, do you think this person could be a child molester because of the reprehensible actions of a few? The vast majority of men and women who serve us in churches are genuine. They seek to offer real comfort and to be a real blessing through their actions.

    Forest Rangers are soiled by the actions of Terry Lynn Barton, the fire fighter who set a large portion of Colorado on fire this summer. Are fire fighters pyromaniacs? No, thousands are risking their lives daily to protect and to serve people they don’t know. Nothing illustrates that principle quite like the 9/11 actions of the NYPD and NYFD.

    So let’s take another approach to this bad news. Have you ever thought about the good news of bad news?

    Sure the news we see is saturated with bad things! We are astonished that this woman who was trusted to protect the forest from fire was responsible for so much destruction. Our outrage encourages me. Bad behavior of this magnitude still makes us angry.

Have you ever thought about the good news of bad news?
    We are astonished and outraged at the death of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion in Orange Country California. Outrage does not adequately describe it. We, as a people, are wounded by what happened to this little girl. If we ever become numb to the news, then we should begin to be gravely concerned. We must protect the innocent, the powerless, the forgotten and we must be outraged when they are exploited, abused, or mistreated. I’m thankful we can be stirred to fury for those who are powerless, it is a reminder that something of God remains alive in us!

    If good behavior ever becomes the news, then we will know that we have gone over the edge. We should never hope to see the news say, “Extra, Extra, The CEO of Conoco Tells Truth about Third Quarter Earnings!” or “News Brief: Minister Helps Family Through Emotional Crisis” or “This Just In: Fire Fighter Stops Campfire from Escalating into a Blaze.” Telling the truth, offering comfort, and doing our jobs should be boring, ordinary, and non-newsworthy — not because these actions are unimportant, but because our world depends on literally billions of these dependable and honorable actions each day — far too many to list, much less headline. Most of the crucial and important “stuff” that makes life work doesn’t, and really shouldn’t, make the news — there’s way too much of it. That is the good news of bad news.

    Sure, evil actions should call for a response from us. Do we see a trend? Is evil gaining ground? What can we do to protect ourselves and those who are innocent? After all, we don’t live in an innocent or dangerless world. We live in a fallen world. Remember God’s words to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door, it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7) I do not believe that we are helpless or powerless against this force of evil. Our Heavenly Father called us to master the evil at our door with the help of God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and the support of God’s people.

    What should our response be to the sickness that we see — the sickness of greed, the sickness of betrayal, of murder, dishonesty, and sexual violence? We mourn with those who are wounded. We serve them in their time of need. We help protect them from those who would exploit them and their situation.

    However, we do not just wring our hands or limit ourselves to “toxic cleanup” in a polluted time. We choose to live responsibly, carrying on our lives and following our routines with integrity. We keep the boundaries of good honest behavior. We practice loyalty to our covenants — which means that we are true to our husbands and wives and children. We take care of our neighbors, and our neighbor’s children. We walk into our work places ready to give all of our attention, effort, and integrity to the tasks at hand. We speak up for justice. We follow the lead of Jesus, who received the children and blessed them. We show the world the ways of God with consistency, integrity, and compassion. Perhaps some will see, learn, and come to know of another way to live.

    And when we fail? We confess and ask for help to do better. We ask to be held accountable. We ask to be removed from any position in which we might endanger another. In other words, we take our call to have character and to live redemptively with joyful seriousness.

    You see, maybe the question isn’t “Whom can you trust?” but rather “Can I be trusted?”

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      © 2002, Michael Harbour. Used by permission.

      Title: "A Matter of Trust"
      Author: Michael Harbour
      Publication Date: August 3, 2002


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Michael Harbour is the preaching minister at Southeast Church of Christ in Houston, Texas.


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