Love is the source of trust and respect
One of the most important characteristics of love is the ability to believe others as better than ourselves (Phi 2:3). If we can do this, we may find it is most significant element to creating new and lasting relationships. But what does that mean? How can we consider another better if we clearly have superior skills or character? Is the Bible suggesting dishonesty? No, it is a call to an open heart and a willingness to suspend suspicion. We must start by giving others the courtesy of a clean slate.
How often have we met people for the first time and failed to make a good impression. Not because we did anything wrong, but because we made the unfortunate error of sounding like something or someone they disliked. By triggering that thing in them, we were arbitrarily categorized as ‘suspect’. Once the label is in place it is difficult to shake. It is a common problem.
The truth each of our relationships is fraught with an accompanying history. It can be loaded with hurt, tragedy, or confused belief systems. For Christians, the latter is vigorously screened for at the outset of most introductions. As a consequence we purposely or unconsciously erect an ‘early warning’ system to alert us to danger. This system is defensive and fear based.
Fear, of course, is poor at building bridges and is the antithesis of love (1 John 4:18). When we allow fear to be the gatekeeper of our heart, very few will pass through. Future relationships are unlikely as we are effectively closing the door of our hearts.
When we love we give the benefit of the doubt, which fear cannot. Fear compels us to be guarded and to believe the worst. Our fears will sabotage new relationships before they even have a chance. It reminds me of the time I worked a booth at a missions conference years ago.
A woman approached our booth and struck up a conversation with me. I immediately felt her fear when I used a particular phrase. It happened to be a direct quote from scripture, but had an ethereal nuance. She immediately suspected I was another victim of ‘new age’ propaganda in the Church. Her heart recoiled as she took an inwardly defensive posture. I was now labelled ‘a risk’. She quickly tried to validate her fear.
The real problem was the assumptions her fear brought. What she did not realize is the inherent superiority bred by her fear. This is a root issue.
While she was quick to suspect me as unsafe, it was really her. Which is to say behind this kind of fear is a latent superiority. It says, ‘I believe myself to be trustworthy and you… not so much’. Fear is quick to downgrade others, refusing the courtesy of a fair hearing.
Within the distrust is a host of assumptions. Among them is the belief others are ‘too dimwitted to avoid the pitfalls I see clearly.’ The inward posture is one of superiority, saying, ‘Obviously all others lack my savvy and justify my suspicion and the scorn which will follow’.
Fear, for the sake of preservation, causes us to protect ourselves by erecting walls. Until these ‘security risks’(people) are thoroughly vetted, we must screen all their interactions and keep them at arms length. The unspoken communication is ‘your not welcome’, making the prospect of intimacy, less possible. Relationship with the fearful is only achieved when we can successfully navigate their ever complex labyrinth of fear; a feat less and less likely as the real problem is unaddressed.
The problem is a belief lying at the root of fear which cannot be found in love. It says, ‘you are less than me’.
Power of Love
This is why love’s capacity to believe in you is so great. Love believes!
Love becomes a bridge. It is willing to believe the right things(1 Corinthians 13:7). Mainly that you are at least as good as me. When we do this the outcomes are clear. I can then refuse to believe you capable of evil I myself would not do. Neither will I accuse you of a theological error I can clearly see. A clean slate is extended with every new introduction, as love is convinced you are harmless and at least as clever as I am. This kind of love is a powerful catalyst for friendship. It is perhaps one of the most important characteristics of love.