We trust because God first trusted us. I’ve been slowly reading my way through Jurgen Moltmann’s The Source of Life:The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life. In chapter 8 he writes about what it means to be “In the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit”. He begins by noting that fellowship is the particular gift of the Holy Spirit. (See II Cor 13:13) Fellowship involves sharing and participation in the life of another. The Holy Spirit is in fellowship with the rest of the Trinity but the Holy Spirit also is in fellowship with us. Our fellowship with the Holy Spirit brings us into fellowship with the Father and with the Son.
Moltmann writes about the ways the Spirit is in fellowship with the Christian community and also is in fellowship with individual Christians. In fellowship with the Holy Spirit we remain individuals but are also part of a community. He spends time exploring this concept of fellowship with the community and with individuals and then he writes this;
Through his Spirit, God confers inexhaustible trust on human beings, and through this trust we ourselves again become trustworthy, however fickle we may be. His word is the word of promise and awakens faith, so that we trust ourselves to him. In bread and wine, Christ puts himself in our hands and trusts himself to us. Through this great trust which God shows us, we acquire a firm trust in ourselves, and trust in our neighbour. Through truse we became capable of fellowship and prepared for fellowship.
The Christian congregation is a matter of trust. It is a place where we can put aside our natural mistrust and the protective cloak which we don in the day-to-day competitive struggle and fight for survival. Here we can open ourselves and trust ourselves to other people. Of course this makes the Christian congregation highly vulnerable, and often enough a disappointment. The community of mutual trust musn’t be blind and naively credulous. It must be open-eyed and aware, and yet prepared for trust all the same. Christian faith is not a childish trust in God, but has passed through the devastation and abysses of Christ’s cross; and in the same way, we only achieve sustaining trust in other people when we know our own weaknesses and accept the weakness of others.
Wherever people live together in trust, there are conflicts. A community of trust cannot aim to be a conflict-free community. Conflicts are not the problem. The problem is their resolution. A conflict that has been suffered through prevents stagnation, and awakens new interest in the other person. Avoidance of conflict results in indifference. So trust is the art of putting up with differences and making them contribute to life. Trust is always ready with an advance payment. But we must also realize that there are limits. Not every community is good and worth maintaining If it oppresses and stifles people, separation is better. Not all trust is good- only the trust which addresses and comes to terms with justifiable mistrust, and ends it. (99-100)
I’ve been thinking about these words for several days. All I have so far are more questions than comments. What makes a congregation a community of trust? How exactly does a congregation do that? Become that?
The congregation of which I am a part is, I think, a community of trust. It was that long before I got there and so I don’t know how the congregation became what it is. Part of it is intentionality. This community wants to be a safe place, a community of trust. But simply wanting to be something doesn’t make it so. What do you think a community (or a person) needs to do, or to cultivate to become trustworthy?
I’m also wondering about his comment “So trust is the art of putting up with differences and making them contribute to life.” I like that thought, but once again I wonder exactly how does one do that? I’ve been trying to think of an example and I can’t. Perhaps this is more common than I think it is and examples are so commonplace I don’t recognize them for their familiarity. However, I suspect that this isn’t very common and that’s why I can’t think of an example. So help me out, if you would. Share an example.
And how, how does trust come to terms with justifiable mistrust? What does that look like?
Once again Moltmann has given me lots to ponder. I’d like to know, what do you think?
3 thoughts on “The Community of Trust”
A powerful post and a lot to ponder indeed. The last paragraph from the author about conflict really struck me, which of course you effectively used it as a vault into mistrust. Although I see the link between them, as you closed on trust & mistrust, my mind was toiling with “Conflicts are not the problem. The problem is their resolution.”
I am still pondering Moltmann’s words. I think it will take me quite a while to understand what he is writing about. As I like to tell people, you know you’re doing theology when your head hurts! Thanks for pondering with me!