The Relational Death Dance
By Ray W. McCollum 'In the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.' John 2:23-25 KJV Every leader knows the key role trust plays in church as well as in the business world. No one can build anything alone, and the only way not to be alone is to trust others. And yet experience teaches us the wisdom of not being too trusting too quickly. Jesus modeled this principle in the text above. Even though they 'believed' in Him, He wasn't too quick to believe in them. Another way of stating this leadership lesson might be, 'don't commit yourself to trusting someone until you know what's inside them'. But what happens when the devil wants to keep us from relationships where a trust basis is well earned and established? Handling Trust Questions in Our Minds The Edenic story, rich in moral lessons, clearly shows that when the serpent wanted to divide Adam and God, he began by sowing questions about God's integrity in the mind of Adam. 'Has God really said you shall not die?' (My translation: Did God tell you the truth?) 'God knows that in the day you eat...you shall be as God...' (My translation: Is God holding out on you? Is He afraid you'll?) Genesis 3:3,5 The devil achieves his goal of division by planting questions in our minds (suspicions) that make us begin to doubt the character of others. We shouldn't follow bad leaders. But we should be very careful before we receive an accusation about a leader who has proven himself in the past. 'Against an elder receive not an accusation, except on the basis of two or three witnesses.' 1 Timothy 5:19-20 NAS Some teach that this means you can never question authority. But that's not what it says. The Apostle Paul is warning his spiritual son Timothy about believing bad things about leaders without solid proof of wrongdoing. The reason is simple. The only real capital a leader has is the trust of those who follow. Once a leader comes under suspicion of evil or wrongdoing, the erosion of trust inevitably spreads, and can eventually destroy his ability to minister in his calling. Once someone receives the seeds of suspicion that are sown in his mind by the enemy, he will begin to question and challenge the leader. This won't go on very long before the leader, especially if he is a godly leader and there is no basis for the suspicion, will begin to distrust the questioner. Now we have a trust breakdown in the follower and in the leader. This is what might be called a relational 'Death Dance'. Both parties begin to circle around each other in some kind of hideous, spiritually toxic tug-of-war that almost always ends in a broken relationship. This pattern can be found in marriages, friendships, businesses, and (unfortunately) even in churches. Here are some lessons we need to learn: 1. We should give our trust slowly, and only after we feel confident that we know the character of the other person(s) 2. Once we give our trust, we must remember that the devil will attack the relationship; he will always seek to sow discord and division through seeds of suspicion and questioning. 3. As soon as we feel trust erosion in a significant relationship, we ought to move quickly to resolve it and talk it through. We can't allow the mistrust to take root and grow! 4. If it's a church situation, we must be doubly sure that we have documentable evidence that the accusation(s) are valid. Even then, except in cases of gross sin, we must think twice before separating. At the same time, we can't manufacture trust. If it's not there, it's not there. There is nothing more devastating than to watch a love relationship begin to die because people are no longer able to trust each other. Once the trust begins to go, the death dance has begun. May God grant us the wisdom and relational skills to save what ought to be saved.