The Revd Robin Sims-Williams
Who do you consider trustworthy? In a survey on who people would trust to sell them a car. Apparently builders are the least trusted with only 1% of people questioned saying they would trust them. IT professionals only slightly more trusted.
Sales professionals, accountants and lawyers are all in the same bag with 6% trusting them. The most trustworthy at a disturbingly low 25%, was priests and clergy. So if you want to sell your car, speak to Steve, Sally or I after the service. We will only take a small commission!
In the midst of election campaigning trust is an important word… We are always being asked - Would you trust the economy to him? or Would you trust the NHS to her?
Some of these questions are about whether we trust the ideology, the approach of the different parties.
Quite a lot of it is about whether we trust the individuals. The general lack of trust in politicians is visible by the ever growing shift towards the smaller more idealistic parties at both ends of the spectrum. Part of our trouble lies in the very understanding of the word politics. While politics is really about how we as a greater society debate and negotiate the balance between demands and budgets for the good of the general public. It’s a task we all have a role in.
Too often people feel politicians are purely in it to negotiate for the good of their own career. This is the other meaning of politics - activities aimed at improving one’s own status or increasing one’s own power. - the dreaded ‘office politics’. The trouble with the later is that it leads to a complete lack of trust in the individuals. Part of the loss of trust in politicians,
particularly career politicians, is that when the needs of the world or the good of the country comes calling, it’s perceived that politicians will only respond in so far as it will be for their own good. And certainly, there is something to be said for the reality that to see things through beyond a political term, short term benefits end up being given priority over long term success.
But this kind of lack of trust isn’t confined to the election and politicians. I remember having colleagues who took some time to gain enough trust in me, that I was going to put the business and therefore my colleagues interests ahead of my own. Or at very least that my interests and those of the business might be aligned. The young and people thought to be on short term contracts were always assumed to be more interested in making themselves look good than actually doing the right thing for the business.
People are also slow to trust those in leadership, that they are concerned for those for who they have responsibility - presumably one of the reason why kings used to ride into battle with their troops. At least, if they expected their people to lay down their lives for them, they were willing to put their own neck on the line too - though surprisingly few suffered like Richard III.
During management training, back before I was a priest, I remember being very taken by the idea of a 'real team' as opposed to a 'working group'. In a 'working group' people are given specific tasks, hierarchy is clear, but nobody thinks beyond what they are instructed to do. In a 'real team' the hierarchy and responsibilities are much more open. Individuals are personally concerned for each other and not just themselves and therefore they trust each other. As a result the team is far more efficient than any working group.
Today Jesus tells us he is the Good Shepherd. We are reminded that he is no temporal ruler, he won’t be seeking re-election in another millennia or five. He knows us each by name and has our interests, our wellbeing, our flourishing, in mind. He will lay his life down for the sheep. As he does in the crucifixion. Fundamentally - he is demanding the Pharisees trust him.
'You see,' he says, 'I’m not some one hit wonder, some see me today, gone tomorrow, fly by night conjurer of tricks.'
He wants to make things better. If they will only listen to what he is telling them. But even if they won’t listen, he’s going to do what they should be doing, he’s going to set the model for what they need to be like, the paradigm they should be trying to live up to. A way to live their lives for others the way he has. We should trust him when he tells us to love one another, because that is what he does, loves us to the end.
When I say we all have a role in politics, I don’t limit my understanding to we all have a role to participate in the debate about how to make the country a better place. The problem we seem to have too often is a sense that it’s somebody else’s role to actually make things better. As if the economy is in the hands of the government alone, or that the government is solely responsible for the quality of life or the healthcare provision. Like our own involvement in each of these, either through investment, participation or as consumers, has no significant impact. The truth is there needs to be action that follows our beliefs, our convictions and our words. If there isn’t why would anybody be convinced of them?
Whatever our political affiliations, building a better society where trust in one another can grow. Where people are able to flourish. We need to put one another’s interests before our own. Or at least, recognise that the needs of others, the opportunity for them to flourish, to succeed, to live, is not just something we can offer as an act of kindness, but, in the long term, makes life better for us as well.