Friendship in Proverbs: What makes an US — Trust (2012)

This post is part of a series of four speeches that you can find in the Circle of Hope archive in a series from 2012 called Friendship in Proverbs.  1.8.2012 1.15.2012 1.22.2012 1.29.2012 2.12.2012

Drake has trust issues

Drake has been singing about trust issues. What’s more he has a new friend, Justin Bieber. Justin has covered Drake’s song Trust Issues and they sing their mash up together in public. I like what an unlikely pair they seem to be.

Your Pastor, Jonny Rashid, likes Drake whether the other pastors think that is OK or not, which is why I know about Drake. Drake’s song called Trust Issues is mostly about drugging hard until you get too old to do it. The hook is, “I’m on one.” But it is also about relationship issues. In the midst of being on oneby virtue of any number of substances, Drake sings that he doesn’t trust the less reliable women in the room to mix his sprite and cough syrup cocktail. He does trust the woman he is singing to, telling her she should know better than to trust him.

If you read deeper into the song, (and people do read deeper into Drake songs), Drake wrote this song because he is changing and people don’t treat him like they used to. He’s looking for trust because he thinks people like him for being famous and not for being himself. He’s looking for trust because he is high all the time and it makes you lose touch with reality and makes you more than a little paranoid. He should be reading the Proverbs with us. They talk about all that stuff.

I am not going to try to justify why we are using the Proverbs to help us see more clearly; I guess you could listen to the previous weeks’ recordings if you want to hear the argument. I am just going to help you use them, to be on the road toward wisdom. Our focus is going beyond just considering what is good or bad for me in my friendships. We’re going to be seeing, with the proverbs collectors, what makes for a good us. What makes society like God intends it? What makes my environment one in which I can have good relationships? What can I do to make relationships that breed the goodness any community should have into the community in which I live?

The anti-trust forces are out there

The Proverbs tell it like it is: there are evil and deceptive people out there. They are the anti-community forces. We don’t need to look far to find them. Did you hear about the horrible incident down in Old City last week? Some people took a disastrous turn away from wisdom while on the road to nowhere. A guy and a couple of women were out late, trying to catch a cab. A cab went by with its light on, but it didn’t stop. So the guy yelled at it to, “Turn your effin light off.” Or so the story goes. Another car full of guys thought the guy was yelling at them. So they stopped their car, chased the guy down and beat him up. They go back to their car and another guy gets out of the car to get in his licks and kills the guy. The victim was 23 and had just gotten his first job at an insurance company downtown.

Evil and deceptive people are out there. But the collectors know their wisdom is stronger than they are. The proverbs writers are sure it is worth the risk to know the anti-community people, to instruct them, to influence them, to even confront them and to weed them out in order to arrive at what Drake is looking for: the real thing — friendship, kinship love, neighborliness.

The collectors know we have all been given creation to tend; if there are weeds we’ve got to deal with that. We’ve already seen the value of “iron” sharpening “iron,” and of a “friend” who “loves at all times:” These kinds of friendships are the real ones the teachers hold up as evidence that there is goodness behind all that superficial badness. Their observations can be summarized with one proverb:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (18:24 NIV)

Jesus is that kind of friend. And Jesus is moving into the world to make friends and make more friends like himself. We’re moving with him when we are meditating on our proverbs, trying to figure out how to be like brothers and sisters in the world.

There is wickedness and superficial gunk that is messing up the togetherness we’d like to experience. There are friends who pretend to be friends. There are companions who do nothing but chatter; they fill up time but not your heart. The comparison is clear. On the one hand, there are acquaintances who remain superficial; they never attempt mutuality, they never sacrificially give. They are fine for sharing a drink in a noisy bar, but they don’t bind themselves. On the other hand, there is a friend who is worthy of the title, who goes deep. Such is the kindred soul with whom we feel bound our whole lives. We want that.

We need to feel secure in an “us”

We need people with whom we can feel like an “us.” In this era, “us” is kind of an ideology. The marketers connect us into communities of product users. There is a community of all sorts of people who have very little in common except that they smoke black and gold wine cigars — and CVS or Google collected the data about their mutual interest. I only know about black and gold cigars and the wine flavor because I asked a guy what he was smoking on the way to the El because I thought it smelled nice, and because Circle of Hope Daily prayer told me to bless a stranger. The man I spoke to liked hearing about his cigar in a positive way and told me all about his brand. He was pretty evangelistic about it. We had a moment of cigar we-ness. That is often about as connected as most of us get.

But who knows what God might do? That man and I were getting started on the road to mutual trust, and trust is one of the big things that make for a good sense of being “us.” We were just stepping into the spectrum that begins with a general trust that all society needs to have to survive that might lead to the personal interdependence which is what is so pleasant about having a friend. Circle of Hope has a simple proverb that says: We are called to develop a trust system. We don’t say much about what that means, but I am trying to help you work through some of the basics.

Since 1988, over 9,000 people have been slain on the streets of Philadelphia, affecting every neighborhood in the city. To put that deadly toll in perspective, during the length of U.S. combat operations in the Iraq war, 3,517 American troops were killed in action – and 3,113 people were killed in Philadelphia.

If relationships in a community must be built on trust, so much more are the most intimate. The Inquirer made a graphic last week that highlighted the level of mistrust in Philadelphia and Camden. This is how they did it. Since 2003, Philadelphia and Camden lost almost as many people to murder as U.S. soldiers died in Iraq. Of course we had one tenth the amount of soldiers in Iraq as there are people in Philly so the comparison is not completely apt. What’s more, upwards to 127,000 civilians have been documented casualties of the war. So it is actually much much safer to live in Philly. But such violence from your neighbor, a teenager with a gun, a drug dealer with an automatic, a soldier or insurgent with bombs and weapons in your neighborhood, a country flying drones overhead — none of it makes for a good “us.” The proverbs note this. For instance:

A violent person entices their neighbor
and leads them down a path that is not good. (16:29)

Valiant people are trying to overcome this violence. The inquirer made a map of every homicide in the city. Above are just the ones for 2012.

The righteous choose their friends carefully,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.(12: 26).

Many have been lead astray. These proverbs invite us to trust those who deserve it, because they are the cement of society.

These proverbs all strain to see the whole society as a place of trust. We long for that environment and when we don’t have a trustworthy place to live, people get sick and die, they kill, we get poor and our children grow up stunted.

We may not be able to do everything we would like about the big picture, but we can make choices about how we will create the mutuality we would like to live in, relationship by relationship — and in our case, cell by cell and team by team.

So let me remind you of three traits that make for a trustworthy friend according to four proverbs. Ten short lines.

If you want to be trusted and build trust…

Be honest.

Whoever rebukes a person will afterwards find more favor
than one who flatters with the tongue. (28:23NRSV)
Open reproof is better
than love concealed. (27:5NEB)

Honesty is the cement of friendship. Whoever takes the risk of speaking the truth in love is the kind of person who is worth having as a friend, and ultimately this will be recognized. If it is not recognized, there are other problems, but it is not with being honest.

Mind you, I don’t mean I should presume that someone ought to trust me just because trust me. We need to win the right to be heard, just like Jesus is winning the right to be heard by you right now. But once we have a toehold into that kind of trust, our courage to speak our hearts is relational gold.

Outspokenness should he welcomed as love manifested. In the second proverb above, the concealed or hidden love could well be called a simulated or deceitful love because it does not have the integrity or the self-respect to reprove; it is morally useless. It lets you go like you don’t matter. It doesn’t even care enough to matter. We make our relationships even more fragile than they already are when we won’t speak the truth in love; if we don’t, they never get anywhere. We must not relate with a condom on for fear of what might get transmitted; nothing will come to fruit.

Take people seriously.

Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death
is one who deceives a neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!” (Proverbs 26:18-19 TNIV)

There is a duty of forethought which isn’t nullified by a joke. My grandson steps on the baby and says, “I was only joking Papa.” Just as weapons aren’t really toys, neither are friends.

This is a big lesson for me, since one of my Dad’s aphorisms was, “I’ve got to laugh to keep from crying.” There was quite a bit to cry about so there was a lot of laughing in my house growing up. It taught me to handle a lot of difficult emotions with humor. It taught me to have fun by making a lie out of the truth because the truth felt too hard to handle.

Humor is great if you have a partner who wants to play with you. But it is better to be a joke by being overly serious that to blunt trust by making serious situations a joke. We had an actual problem not too long ago at our Love Feasts, the event when the covenant members receive new partners into their cause. People would get up in front of the meeting to make a little speech about why they wanted to make a covenant and it would turn into a comedy routine. It was funny, but it was a serious thing we were doing. A sprinkle of humor is fine, but just a sprinkle. We’re serious.

Be discreet.
The perverse stir up dissension,
and gossips separate close friends. (16:28 TNIV)

The “whisperers” (RSV), and “tale-bearers” (NEB), spread disaffection. Inability to trust the community at large breeds an atmosphere not conducive to the good of friendship.

I think we are relatively good about this around here. In most tight-knit communities it is said that good news travels fast and bad news even faster. And a rumor travels under the radar. Many of our leaders can spot a rumor and send it back to where it came from. I have been known to tell people I am going to call up the person they are talking about so they can talk over what they have been telling me. I almost always go directly to the person who is being gossiped about when I hear a piece of gossip, just to make sure I know what they really said or what they really think or what they really did. It is amazing, how much disinformation I plow through. Part of what I do to build trust is to reverse the flow of indiscretion.

Build a trust system

What do you do to build trust? I have been trusting you to hear what I am saying and apply the wisdom to your life. My assumption is that you have the spiritual instinct to care somewhere and you can see the trust that needs to be built and build it. I am not saying this to imply that you are doing anything wrong, you probably are, but that is not where I am pointing. What do you do that builds trust? If anyone trusts you, what did you do to build that? See the trust at work.

If you can’t see what trust is, chances are you can’t see what it isn’t and you are flattering people so you don’t get into trouble with their unattractive emotions, or you are making a joke out of what should be honored because you are afraid, or you are gossiping about someone because you get a perverse sense of value to see them devalued. We need to deal with our trust issues. Jesus will help us.

We are building a trust system. It takes all of us, and any of us can do a lot of damage by not building it. The healthier we are at being us, the more each of us benefits, as well.

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