You friend, if you are like me, you struggle with this too. We knee-jerk away from our “persons” when we encounter blatant mistrust, like in the first threshold moving from mistrust to trusting a Christian.
Get a copy of a document describing the five thresholds here.
Yup, and how many times do we unintentionally bow the eyes to avoid the person rubbing us the wrong way. We pull back, turn away when we should lean in. We attack when we should listen, be patient with their journey. Remember, you were there once too.
This list is just a small piece of the value that this book, I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught us About Their Path to Jesus, will add to your understanding of the person struggling on their journey.
Our Five Knee-Jerk Reactions to Distrust
Defend. Often when someone assumes negative things about us, we get defensive. We know there’s nothing we personally have done wrong, and so we want to defend our reputation. Sometimes we even want to defend whatever it is about Christianity that has caused distrust in them. While these defensive instincts are natural and instinctive, they are a pretty sure sign that we are starting to close our heart to the person who mistrusts us.
Bruise. Sometimes when we are not trusted, we feel personally offended. We become indignant and offended that the other person feels offended, and no one really takes time to listen. Our ego is so bruised that we become reluctant to put our heart on the line again. Frequently, even though we wouldn’t admit it, we allow disdain to grow in our heart. We see ourselves as the one who is persecuted, as the victim in the situation.
Avoid. Often our knee-jerk reaction to the neighbor who gets stiff and weird when they find out we are a Christian is to just avoid that neighbor ever after. We distance ourselves. Who wants to wade through their baggage with past Christians? It’s easier to avoid the awkwardness and gravitate toward those who “get me” – other Christians. We become numb and indifferent. We stop caring.
Judge. Out of feelings of hurt, and out of pride, some of us lash back with a condescending attitude. It seems so ridiculous that our non-Christian friends would look down on us that we point the finger right back.
Argue. Some of us are good at debating (or think we are!) and when others react to the fact that we are “one of those Christians,” we receive their distrust as a challenge. Watch out for my apologetics! We rev up to unleash some potent logic on them. We get into a competitive mindset and don’t want to lose the point. As we argue, we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are actually serving them (witnessing) but often this reactionary posture actually works to derail their journey of faith. Sure, arguing is a natural reaction; it’s just not always a helpful reaction.
What do you do? I fear rejection and avoid. Other times I unleash my “knowledge.” Oh Jesus, have mercy! Instead…we can practice these:
Five Kingdom Habits to Build Trust
Pray. When we feel the temptation to defend, we can instead choose to stop and pray. As we catch ourselves getting defensive, we can silently ask God to soften our heart. We can admit that we are hurt or irritated by the other’s distrust. We can be honest with God about our struggles. By bringing our defensiveness to God, we are letting him do a deeper work in us. “Jesus, you love this person enough to give your life for them. Please infuse my heart with your love and passion for them. Help me see them the way you see them.”
We can also pray for them intercede for the stuff in their life—their family, their concerns, their hopes and joys and struggles. As we take the time to try to think up a petition or two to utter on their behalf, something mysterious and wonderful may happen to us. As we consider their life, as we contemplate their fears and concerns so that we might intercede for them, as we wrap their life and specific circumstances and relationships in prayer, our own heart begins to soften toward them. Also, when we are on our knees in prayer, God shares his own parental affection for them with us. When you feel the urge to defend, pray.
Learn. When we feel the temptation to bruise and feel offended, we should choose to learn. [Ask questions] and try to understand the world from the other person’s perspective and sympathize with them. Instead of being victimized by their distrust, we can try to learn about their distrust –where it comes from, what has happened to them. Instead of being offended, we can choose to enjoy and accept them. We can even allow God to captivate us with them.
Bond. When we feel the temptation to avoid, we can choose to bond instead. Rather than walking wide circles around someone, we can walk right up and do what they do with them. If we want to help our friends become trusting, it is incumbent upon us to open our schedule and make them a priority in our buy life—to be willing to be displaced ourselves for the sake of building trust.
Affirm. When we feel the temptation to judge, we can instead choose to affirm. We’re not talking about a blind, indiscriminate affirmation…we are talking about looking for real good and affirming it. Where there is distrust, our aloofness can come across as judgment. We have the power to combat this by looking for good in people and affirming it. That habit builds trust.
Welcome. When we feel the temptation to argue against the family member who doesn’t trust us because we are a Christian, we can choose instead to welcome them into our life. Instead of posturing ourselves over and against them, we can welcome them with open arms into our world. This habit is vulnerable and risky. It has a way of disarming our combative posture and reminds us of Jesus. We can never stop going into people’s worlds to build trust; we also must invite people into our own world. We can open our heart, our home, our lifestyle and our friendships to them. We offer a profound grace to folks as we ask them to “come and see.”
This is Day 18 in our Cross-Shaped Evangelism series. Click here to catch up.