One of my main themes the last 10 years has been related to “building bridges.” Being part of an evangelical community, relationships with other segments of society range anywhere from strained to hostile. As Christ followers, our mandate is to love and serve all people, helping them to find and follow Him. This requires things that we’re not necessarily known for: (Thank you David Kinnaman haha) humility, meekness, brokenness, and a desire to listen to people’s stories and experiences.
Yes, in many ways, this is risky, challenging and even messy. But that’s what we’re supposed to be about. We are to die to our preferences, agendas, opinions, comfort, and even at times personal safety. It’s the very core of Jesus’ ministry in connecting with people, especially those who were overlooked or forgotten.
Dialogue is great. Collaboration is great. Cooperation is great. Friendship is great. But for a bridge to be successful, it must forged on hard work, tenacity, trust, and a true desire for more than cosmetic change. Compromise is required, not in principle or ideologies necessarily, but definitely when it comes to the non-essentials. ALL-OR-NOTHING makes bridge building impossible. Both sides have to work at it, even being willing to endure criticism and scrutiny. The key is, bridges are built to connect with people of differing opinions and perspectives, otherwise they’re simply on the same side. If these criteria can’t be met, then it will be a bridge to nowhere.
“A bridge to nowhere is a bridge where one or both ends are broken or incomplete and does not lead anywhere.” Wikipedia lists some reasons for these bridges:
- The bridge was never completed, because of the cost…
- One end or both ends has collapsed or have been destroyed.
Sacrifice is required. Investments need to be made. History needs to be reconciled. Apologies need to be extended. Pride needs to be swallowed. Wounds need to be healed. Hands need to be extended. Middle ground needs to be established. We NEED to be able to AFFORD it.
If both sides are unwilling to sit down and work together for harmony, then the bridge concept will fail. If not properly supported, it will give way, often taking collateral damage with it.
A one sided bridge is useless. So is a bridge from both sides that never meet.
My experiences have led me to believe that in some cases, bridges aren’t possible. The anger, frustration, hate, fear, distrust, and hurt makes this unattainable. It’s sad when we limit God’s grace and mercy, only allowing it to extend part of the distance. It’s pitiful when we accuse the other side of self-imposed conditions that we practice ourselves.
My whole point is while we can dream, hope, and imagine safe, loving, and accepting places…the reality of human weakness, stubbornness, and arrogance renders that impossible. That’s when we need to accept it, count our losses, and move on. People will accuse me of giving up. I would invite them to pick up the baton and try. I would rather refer to it as refocusing my resources where I will be able to yield higher results and progress. While a 6 1/2 year journey comes to an end, I look forward to other opportunities that are ahead, and perhaps bridges in other areas can be established.
“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what” (Philippians 2:1-6).
Oh, well…maybe next time.