By Reverend Astor Carlyle
Trust is the capital stock of relationships. Jamaica has for some time been a low-trust environment. Hence relationships are under threat. Relationships between people and police; relationships between people and pastors; relationships between people and politicians; relationship between individuals and institutions; relationship among the citizenry are all under threat because the capital stock of trust has been undermined.
Lack of trust breeds cynicism. Persons have become cynical concerning the motives of others and the means of others. The court of public opinion, fueled by social media, tries, convicts, and even condemns many suspects before their day in the Courts of the land. This, due to constant revelation of moral breaches by individuals and institutions who were invested with the asset of trust.
A low trust environment bathed with the waters of cynicism threatens the hope for a better world. We tend to become suspicious of everyone; and arm ourselves to retaliate rather than open ourselves to relate.
There must be a better way to live. Suspicion and cynicism darken the heart of humanity. The eroding of trust undermines the health of a society.
What must we do?
WE NEED AN INWARD LOOK.
As a people, our hearts need to be changed. Jeremiah 17: 9 paints a true picture of the heart that has not been changed by God “The heart (mind) is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” When our hearts/minds have not encountered God then we are bound to operate in ways that go contrary to the values of God. It is from the heart that evil schemes and speech arise. It is from the heart that evil actions spring. Defrauding and demeaning others; maiming and mishandling others all spring from unchanged hearts (minds).
So the eternal injunction will always be relevant. “Be not conformed to the pattern of this world (unchanged/ungodly mindset). Rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12: 1)
For trust to be rebuilt, each of us needs to allow God in Jesus Christ to touch, change, and renew our hearts (minds). It is a mental agreement that God’s ways are the correct ways; and a commitment to follow God’s way/principles of light since “in him there is no darkness of all” (1 John 1: 5)
WE NEED AN OUTWARD LOOK
We were created to live in healthy wholesome community. As a people we need to recapture our sense of family. Family-connection is the soul of a people.
When I truly see you as my brother or sister, regardless of your gender, address, sexual orientation, social standing, religious affiliation, academic or professional status, I will want to support you and secure you. I will not want to progress at your expense.
When we are committed to building community then matters of justice become important. The guidelines that ought to govern the community’s health should never seem to benefit one set of family members over another. Fairness, equity, and truth are critical ingredients to a healthy family.
As Jamaicans we need to visit the words and actions of the Israelite prophet Samuel as he addressed the people “Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”4 “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”5 Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” (1 Samuel 12: 3-5)
The outward look is guided by the inward look. Like Samuel we must care more about our character than our comfort. It is from our character that credibility comes. Credibility determines trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is the seedbed of trust. Trust is the capital stock of relationships.
WE NEED AN UPWARD LOOK
The recent shocking and disappointing reports of breach of trust have us clamoring for effective systems and processes to safeguard the resources of individuals. Certainly, proper systems and effective communication go a very far way in securing trust. We must see to continued development of these.
As we do the inward look both at selves and systems; as we do the outward look, seeing each other as sister and brother we must take the upward look. We need to pursue the ideals of God as a nation.
We need to revisit our national pledge often. We should not just say it. We should practice its tenets: “Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart; the wisdom and courage of my mind; the strength and vigor of my body in the service of my fellow citizens. I promise to stand up for justice, brotherhood and peace; to work diligently and creatively; to thing generously and honestly so that Jamaica may under God increase in beauty fellowship and prosperity and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race”
We need to rehearse our National Anthem and truly repent and return to Almighty God.
Psalm 33: 12 reminds us “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.”
I trust that for the sake of generations yet born we who hold the torch of hope will not let the fire be extinguished. Each of us must take a deep introspective look and constantly surrender our hearts to God. Each of us must commit to the outward look seeing and treating others as sisters and brothers, building a community of justice and equity. Each of us must take the upward look seeking the mind, help, and direction from God who has good plans for our lives and nation.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29: 11
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rev. Astor Carlyle, C.D. JP., is Pastor of Webster Memorial United Church in St. Andrew. This message, published initially on the church's website, has been reproduced here with his consent.