Many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing. And they believed in his name. But Jesus did not fully trust them. He knew what people are like. He didn't need others to tell him what people are like. He already knew what was in the human heart. (Jn 2.23-25, NIRV)
I like this translation of this passage. It came to mind after a conversation I had this week with Dan, a new friend in Evanston. He had spoken of past disappointments in relationships, and the difficulty of trusting people again. Trust is something that is emphasized in "intentional community" settings, where long-term relationships are promoted, along with the benefits of learning to trust one another through years of experience. But long experience together doesn't always lead to trust. As we get to know people, we learn to what extent we can trust them and also to what we extent can't. We come to know, like Jesus, what these people are like.
Pretty much every group of people has in their history stories of painful failed trust. Even the story of Jesus' small band of disciples climaxes with the revelation of deadly betrayal. I said to Dan that, while communities promote trust within the group, I didn't see that message in Jesus' story. We're not called to trust one another. We're called to love one another.
But does that mean we cannot trust? Isn't an atmosphere of trust needed to free us to love?
I believe we can trust, and are called to trust—to trust God. Jesus' story is a story of complete, unreserved trust in his Father. And it's out of this trust that Jesus could love with free abandon, even those who he knew would betray him and attack him. Jesus did not trust them (and sent his disciples out among them "as sheep in the midst of wolves," telling them to be "as shrewd as serpents"). But he trusted that his Father would provide and protect him and his followers to carry out the mission God had given them. And preserve their lives no matter what people did.
I've felt shaken recently and more unsure of people, as I've seen them act in ways I didn't expect. When various pressures (especially social pressures) seemed to force decisions from people that went against the convictions I thought they had, or brought out aggression I never knew was there. As if they were not free to act rightly, or even as they wished. In situations like those, there seems to be no basis for trusting, since people may not act like themselves at all. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus saw taking place "in the human heart."
Yet Jesus showed us we could trust God anyway. No matter what people chose to do, God would be faithful to us. (I've sometimes even experienced God doing good with the bad that people intended towards me.) So we can be vulnerable to people, and love them, even when we don't trust them completely. It's complete trust in God that gives us the freedom to love.