Acts 9:26-27 NKJV And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. (27) But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
Pistanthrophobia is the fear of trusting people or the fear of putting any faith in people. For some this is a debilitating phobia that not only isolates them from loved ones, it also makes it difficult for them to receive any of the kind of help that they need. Though I’m sure most of you don’t suffer from this on that level, we’ve all experienced not trusting someone before.
*Disclaimer* I have had circumstances where the Spirit of God was warning me not to trust certain people I’ve met and I just knew in my spirit to be nice, but not to trust them. I’m not talking about that… always follow the leading of the Spirit. Is what I’m talking about are those people who many instinctively recoil from; those with a past.
We have all met people that have a not so great past and past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior… unless there is a REAL change. But sometimes we meet people, find out about their past and immediately write them off as totally untrustworthy and though we know Theologically they are redeemable we’re reticent to believe they have changed. This is what Saul experienced after his conversion.
Many of the disciples were afraid of him because of his past (he was arresting Christians after all) and though he didn’t cast any stones personally, he did hold the coats for those that stoned Stephen. We have the hindsight to see that a real and genuine change had taken place in Saul/Paul, but these people didn’t…. Many churches push new converts or attenders away when they begin to get to know them, because of something in their past. We all have a past that would raise somebody’s eyebrows and make them nervous if they don’t know us today, so how do we overcome this fear so we can begin to trust others and connect with them.
First, recognize that your suspicions may be unfounded. Are you just negatively recoiling about how they look, speak, or their past? A relationship with Jesus can change people. It changed you.
Second, take them to leadership. Barnabas took Saul to the apostles who met with him and heard his story. These men were all very close with Jesus and were experienced with the leading of the Holy Spirit. It was also part of their responsibility to protect the people. They should have a good sense about someone’s intentions and trustworthiness. NOTE: not all church leaders are as sensitive as these ones were either. They might be wrong.
Third, spend time with them. Saul was invited to spend time with the Early Church Leaders (Acts 9:28). They were able to watch him. NOTE: If you have a speckled past, submit yourself to the elders of your church. Somethings you have to live down and show over time through your actions that the change in you is genuine. The apostles didn’t just immediately sign off on Saul and promote him to a leadership position. Saul had to live down his past and prove himself.
Lastly, provide opportunities for people to earn your trust. Give them non-critical places where they can prove themselves and let them grow to greater responsibility as they do (Acts 9:28-30).
Following these steps will help you grow and strengthen new relationships while fostering trust within them. The person you are afraid to trust because of their past, might just be the next Apostle Paul.