CHRISTIAN COMMENT: A question of trust

How old are you?

Sorry to be personal but I can see why these market research people want to know which sector of the age-range their “targets” are. Knowing when someone was born tells you a lot about who they are.

How did I get to there? By a rather roundabout route.

I was just updating myself on the BBC crisis – the latest Newsnight disaster of bad management. I was wondering whether this column should give yet another week to the subject of “revelations” when I came across this quotation from the newly-appointed Director General... “The BBC is all about trust. The BBC needs to be trusted. If we haven’t got that, we don’t have anything.” And I thought: “Yes, absolutely.”

Which is how I got onto how old I am – and you are.

You see, it wasn’t that long ago when the BBC was the trusted institution. I remember how one of the leaders of the freedom fighters in some ex-colony (could have been Zimbabwe) said that during the independence struggles they would vilify the British and all their instruments of power (including the BBC), then secretly listen to the World Service to find out what was going on. They didn’t trust what their own people told them!

It was simply a given that the BBC’s version of events would be as impartial and as near to the “truth” as was possible to get. It mattered to the reporters that the information they acquired was accurate. It mattered to the editors that they continued to be trusted by their reporters. It mattered to those commissioning and producing programmes that what came out was honest.

Now... well, it’s all slipped a bit. To take just this year, many people commented on the sloppy journalism surrounding the diamond jubilee celebrations where reporters and commentators didn’t seem to care that they were ignorant. Too many editing decisions recently have seemed arbitrary. Those in charge seem happy to let anything go as long as the ratings stay up.

Yes, I know that’s an incredibly thin and biased snapshot – of course. There is still some fabulous informed, exciting reporting going on. But overall, does it seem to matter? Does anybody care?

I love it when you get someone making programmes or commenting on events who shows that they really care about what they’re doing. That they feel personally responsible for the quality of what’s being aired. That their reputation’s on the line every time. Such people have a sense that they’re answerable.

You see, if you don’t trust the person that you’re meant to be answerable to, you don’t do such a good job. “Why should I bother? No-one else does.” And that’s why God arranged it that everyone would be answerable to Him in the long run. But that should hold true on an everyday basis too.

Christians are no different from anyone else in their human frailty. They can be as lazy and slipshod over standards as the next person. But they tend not to be. Why?

Someone who follows Jesus knows – or certainly should know – that if they want to enjoy the love and joy and peace that God enjoys giving us, then they need to line up with His way of doing things. And to put their hand up when they mess up. Which they will.

Paul wrote: “Whatever you find yourself doing, do it to the best of your ability, as if you were doing it personally for God.”

Jesus says: “Don’t do things just to impress other people. They may notice or not. Your motivation needs to be that your heavenly Father sees you. He’ll see if you do a good job. He’ll reward you accordingly. Trust me.”

By Nigel O’Dwyer, who leads Goring New Life Church, and lives and works in Worthing.