If you were to drive to New York City, you would need to cross the Hudson River to get there. The Hudson River separates islands that make up some of New York City from the mainland. Manhattan, for example, is isolated by natural “motes” on each side. The Hudson River separates it from New Jersey, while the Harlem River and East River separate it on the east side from the rest of the city boroughs. You can cross this barrier by passing through a tunnel or crossing over a bridge. Without these, you would need to pass through the waters to complete the journey. Once in the city, we still count on bridges to get us from borough to borough. Without these bridges, life in the city would be very different. We depend on trucks coming across these bridges for much of our food supply and another set of trucks going the other way to remove the trash. When family comes to see us, they cross a bridge.
We would like to consider bridges of relationships in our lives. When we relate to others, we are either building bridges or walls. Each of our actions furthers the building process.
First, the master example of relationships is Jesus Christ. How did He build relationships? He is the author of salvation. When man was first created, he had an intimate communication with God. Then man sinned and created a gulf between him and God. Jesus is the One that bridged this gap by providing us salvation, which restores that intimate relationship with God. Jesus left the comforts of heaven to come live an earth life just as we do. Once on earth, Jesus freely showed His love for the people here. It cost Him time. It cost Him comforts. The completion of the “bridge” cost Him His life. Just before Jesus died on the cross He said, “It is finished.” When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He had finished constructing the bridge that allowed for a healed relationship between God and mankind. Before, there was a vast gulf between Holy God and sinful mankind. After Jesus’ atonement on the cross, the gulf was spanned. Now Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God, but the bridge is already there for whosoever will. Anyone who is willing to pick up the roadmap He left us in the Bible and follow the roads to the bridge He built can benefit from it. But even so, many people are refusing to use the bridge and trying in vain to instead find their own way to the city of heaven by passing through the waters.
Secondly, as we relate to others, we need to be very active bridge builders. Proverbs 18:34 says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.” Relationships take work and much sacrifice. As we look around us, there is a sea of faces. Each one has a personality with deep feelings behind it. When I see a lonely stranger, do I see him as a candidate for a friend? When I see the individual who is evidently lost in the depths of sin, do I see him as a candidate for salvation? Do I see reason to expend the efforts needed to build a bridge to his heart? Can I give love to the individual who cuts me off in traffic while driving, or the one who curses me out to my face because of personal frustration? Or do I react by building a wall of irritation? Am I satisfied to pass by my neighbors from day to day and let the “motes” uncrossed, or am I willing to expend the time and effort needed to build a bridge to their lives?
In a natural sense, bridges are constructed of many materials. Sometimes concrete does the job best. Sometimes it’s steel beams or cables. A smaller bridge might be constructed of stone. Most times it will be a mix of materials. When we consider relationships, there are many materials that need to be put into them. The best bridge building material available is love, and it needs to be included in all of our relationship bridges. The fruit of the Spirit also includes many additional qualities specifically needed in building relationship bridges. Longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, and meekness are materials that are very vital in building these bridges.
Bridges are built in various styles. There are arch bridges, beam bridges, and suspension bridges, to name a few. Likewise, as we work on building relationships, there are different styles that we have. But ultimately we need to use the materials God has given us and pattern them after the plans He has laid out in His Word. Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 that the measure of a Christian disciple is love for one another. That means there will be good relationships with my natural family and my church family. It is usually the hardest to maintain good relationships with the people we are around all the time. Here is where our differences stand out. Let’s claim the power of the Holy Spirit and live in love with each other. By His grace we can take the differing materials we all represent and use them to build bridges in love.
~ The Bronx, NY