Theological Mistakes #15: Loving and Trusting

One of the followers of this blog, L.V. Spencer, asked me to comment on the relationship between “loving one’s neighbor” and “trusting.” I gave a brief response to this interesting comment yesterday, and today I would like to expand upon it.

I would like to frame the issue this way: What is the relationship between “loving one’s neighbor” and “trusting one’s neighbor”? The concept of loving the neighbor has roots in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18). It is a central tenet of the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5:43, 19:19, 23:39 and parallels), of Paul (Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14), and is labelled as the “royal law” in James 2:8. For our purposes, let’s consider Romans 13:8-10:

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (NIV2011)

Paul teaches here that this statement, “Love your neighbor as yourself” is both the fulfillment of the entire law and is a useful way to sum up the entire law. He sees this as a “debt” we carry to our fellow men and women. This is important stuff, then.The saying is somewhat self-explanatory. What does it mean to “love” another person, a neighbor? It means to treat thatperson the way you would want to be treated, another version of the Golden Rule principle: Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.

Having said that, I don’t see this including a blanket “trust” of one’s neighbor. Love of this type is based in kindness, in active compassion, in concern and care for another. Trust is quite another matter. The biblical concept of “trust” is related to the biblical concept of “faith.” To have faith in God is to put our trust in God. For example, 1 Peter 1:21 is sometimes translated “believe in God” (KJV, NIV) and sometimes “trust in God” (NRSV, NLT). When we put our faith in Christ for salvation, we are trusting that he is willing and able to save us. This is faith in a person, not in a concept or creed. Faith, in the end, is the expression of a personal relationship.

Neighbor-Love is also a relationship idea, but it may be fairly anonymous. I may help a person in need (my neighbor) in a one-time encounter and have no continuing relationship with that person. For example, Mark records that when Jesus was approached by the “Rich Young Ruler,” he “looked at him and loved him.” He wanted to help this sincere young man. He cared for him, but there is no indication that a relationship developed between the two. In fact, Jesus’ demand that the young man go and sell all of his belongings and give to the poor caused him to reject Jesus and leave.

Jesus loved this young man, but I don’t see anything to indicate he trusted him. Here’s why. Faith/trust is a concept related to obedience. If we trust a person, if we believe in that person, we will be willing to obey that person. The young man may have respected, even loved Jesus, but he did not trust him enough to obey him. Likewise, Jesus loved the young man, but did not see any need to obey him. Instead, he saw the need to have the young man obey him, and the relationship failed at this point. So I don’t see Jesus “trusting” this man in any real sense. I also don’t see Jesus quitting in his love for the man when his command was rejected.

Our human relationships will always be imperfect. We may love without trusting because of the untrustworthiness of a person. We may also trust without loving if there is no relationship that calls out our love. (I trust a pilot to fly me safely to another city but don’t love him because I don’t know him.) With God it is different. We may love and trust God fully, unconditionally, and we will never be betrayed or disappointed.

Mark S. Krause

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One thought on “Theological Mistakes #15: Loving and Trusting

  1. Thank you for addressing my questions and sharing your insights with me. I have struggled with with the inter-relationship between forgiveness, love, and trust.

    I have a friend who I was trying to help and mentor. I found out he was lying and taking advantage of my kindness. Later on he entered into a AA program and asked for my forgiveness. I forgive him, I love him and hope the best for him, but I still don’t trust him.

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