Friday, March 12, 2010

Circles of Confidence Part I

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There is a belief that confidence in another person has to be an all or nothing.  However we can have degrees of confidence that allows us to have more and less intimate relationships with others.  The greater the confidence the greater the intimacy.  One of the realities is that the greater the intimacy the greater the hurt when someone betrays that trust.  However God does not intend for us to life a life of isolation.  So how do we decide the level of confidence to place into others.  I propose that we take a look at the life of Christ to see how he handled the levels of trust, by what I call Circles of Confidence. 

From the Scriptures I can find ten circles of trust for our Lord: Money Changers (John 2:14-16), The hypocrites (Matthew 23:27-28), The Crowds (Matthew 4:25), the 120 disciples (Acts 1:15; Acts 1:21-22), The 70 sent (Luke 10:1), good friends (John 11:5), The twelve (Luke 9:1), The Three Closest Disciples (Luke 8:51; Luke 9:28; Mark 14:33), and Abba Father (Mark 14:36).  If you can think of these 10 circles each within the other with the most outside circle having the lowest level of confidence (even distrust) and the innermost circle (ie God) the highest level of confidence. 

Money Changers

Interestingly this is the only group that Jesus took specific action against (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; John 2:14-16).  I do not want to draw this out too far.  Jesus' passion for His Heavenly Father was so intense He was moved to take action against those taking advantage of others genuinely seeking God.  They also served as a barrier to the poor seeking out God.    In the same respect anyone that would prevent others from seeking the Lord or take advantage of the poor are worthy of our distrust.  These are the people that are without care and compassion for others to the point that they have seared their conscience.  At times these people can be very hurtful and antisocial.  At others they can have the appearance of being helpful or desiring to help out. 

The Hypocrites

Those that Jesus identified as hypocrites were the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 23).  They acted righteous but lacked true spirituality and were short in grace and mercy (Matthew 23:23-24).  Jesus had harsh words for these.  It is fair to say that he had no confidence in them as well as there ability to be spiritual leaders.  He challenged them on the basis that they were educated in God's word and should have known better.  This is a bit different than someone who does not know God's word, but acts hypocritical (ie says one thing and does another).  These were the ultimate actors.  They had no problem proclaiming thier own self-importance.  Yet God's word convicts them (Matthew 15:7-9).  People that stand in self-righteousness judgment of others using religion to do this are the type of people that are worthy of no confidence.  Don't get me wrong people are to be discerning.  Some people use "don't judge" line to avoid accountability and conviction of sin.  We just need to work on our own log in our eye before moving to others specks (Matthew 7:5).  Jesus had no logs so He could see clearly.  Do you see clearly?  Sometimes our lack of trust has more to do with log in our eye than the other person's trustworthiness. 

The Crowds

Everywhere Jesus went He seemed to draw a crowd.  Jesus had compassion on these (Matthew 9:36), yet he did not entrust them to know and understand his mission (Matthew 13:10-11).  In some respects Jesus' confidence was neutral toward the crowds.  He was willing to share and be a part of their lives.  On the other hand He did not entrust them until they demonstrated some level of commitment to be disciples (See Luke 9:57-62).   I believe that when we are dealing with people in general  that we can have compassion and concern for them.  However we cannot just accept everyone into higher levels of confidence.  We risk being hurt if we extend confidence inappropriately (Matthew 7:6).  The goal should be to minister to needs and get to know them, but avoid higher levels of intimacy until they demonstrate a level of trustworthiness.

The Disciples (not the 12)

There is a group of people that followed Christ through his ministry.  Five hundred were witnesses of his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6).  One hundred and twenty were still waiting in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost (Acts 1:15).   Some left at the difficulty of Jesus' teaching on Body and Blood being bread and wine of redemption (John 6:61; John 6:66). 

In our circle of friends and acquaintances we have people that we share common beliefs with.  We share a confidence with them because of these common beliefs.  At times these beliefs draw us together and at others they pull us apart.  There also is a level of commitment to these beliefs.  Notice that 500 diminished to 120 over the approximately 50 days following Christ's resurrection.  This tells me that not all those that share our beliefs are worthy of high confidence.  That is not to say that you are distrust them, just that your confidence would be medium until you were able to see if there actions match their beliefs.

The 70 Sent

Jesus entrusted these with a mission of spreading the Gospel (Luke 10:1-18).  At times we are tied to others with a specific purpose.  That is to say there is a specific task that is assigned.  This can occur in work relationships, church relationships, and community relationships.  If there is a task that needs to be accomplished it requires a moderate level of confidence in those doing the work.  Without confidence either the task is never given or it is sabotaged by an attitude of, "you probably won't be able to do this, but..." There is an expression in this section "a worker is worthy of his wages (v 10)."  Providing for the needs of those who are working is an expression of confidence.  Notice it is not the quality of work per sey that is worthy, but the work in and of itself (See Matthew 20:1-16).  It also leads me to believe that an expression of unworthiness is really robbing a person of just wages if they are making a sincere effort.   I have no doubt that in the midst of the Seventy there were those with greater skill and talent.  There also were those that shall we say less than perfect.  We know that some were quite excited about the power to cast out demons more than they were excited that they were in a saving relationship with Christ (Matthew 10:20). 

I am going to break here.  My next post will deal with the friends of Christ, the 12 apostles, and the three closest disciples.  So far we have covered two groups worthy of distrust (money changers, and hypocrites) those that take advantage of others who are weak, those that use religion for personal gain, those that stand in the way of others sincerely seeking God,  and those that use religion to promote there own righteousness and stand in judgment of others.  Then we talked about those that are neutral in confidence.  That is to say they are neither trusted or distrusted, but treated with compassion and a desire to meet their needs and get to know them better.  Moving in to a medium level of confidence we have those that share our beliefs and values.  We ended with those that we have a moderate level of confidence for the purpose of accomplishing a task at work, church, or in the community.  These we have enough confidence in them to believe they will accomplish the task at hand. 

I hope that you find this helpful.  God Bless You!

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