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Blair, a boy and a ball

From the yard came the sound of bouncing ball … the crash of our flowerpot meeting our concrete … and silence. Next door's nine-year-old had bolted inside at this unplanned demise. We waited … and waited for the doorbell to ring; it didn't. Not wanting relationship as well as pot to be under strain, I went round - to encounter the lad's absolute denial that he had anything to do with the plant's untimely end. What is it to think and act Christianly in this situation?

Meanwhile on the national stage a war rages between the government and the BBC about whether dossiers of evidence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were 'sexed up' to make the case for war. Readers in the US and in Europe will recognise the issues.

One consequence shows in an opinion poll reported in Tuesday's The Times in which "Mr Blair suffers particularly on the trust and honesty questions. Over half the public (54%) would not trust Mr Blair 'further than I could throw him'" and "… by a two to one margin (63% to 29%) the public do not believe that Mr Blair is more honest than most politicians." Whatever the realities, the incident serves as a powerful example of the connection between transparency, perceived truthfulness and trust. No wonder James (echoing Jesus in Mt 5:37) wrote: "Above all, my beloved, … let your 'Yes' be yes and your 'No' be no, so that you may not fall into condemnation." (5:12)

Trust matters more than is at first apparent. Social capital is those "features of social organisation, such as trust, norms and networks that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions" (Putnam, 1993). To build trust is to foster social capital; to foster social capital is to "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile" (Jer 29:7). And God is a god of constancy and trustworthiness; he calls us to trust in him, to imitate his character by being trustworthy ourselves and to call others to do the same.

So I didn't let young Charlie (we'll call him) off the hook. I tried to let him know that we weren't much concerned about a broken pot but were passionate about him growing up whole. His mum helped him work it through, he did own up and we remain the best of friends. Lord, make Charlie, and Tony, and me like Nathanael "in whom is no guile" (Jn 1:47 KJV).

Yours in Christ

Peter Nicholls

To build trust is to foster social capital; to foster social capital is to "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile" (Jeremiah 29:7).

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