by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
On the border between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, there's a bridge called “the Friendship Bridge.” The name has become a joke among the locals because there is no friendship between the people of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. In fact, the bridge has been closed for more than four years. Elsewhere along the border, there is barbed wire and armed guards with rifles. But in that one place, there is a bridge; a bridge that stands for “friendship,” unity, and peace.
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus described a chasm between the realm of death and sin, and the heavenly realm of God. No one, we are told, can cross this gulf, which separates the two. Similarly, no one can cross the gulf between God’s perfection and sinful humanity:
“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.” (Isa. 59:1-2 NIV).
There is no way we can cross this gulf on our own. And yet, God built a bridge for us. God sent Jesus to span the chasm of sin that separates us from God (Eph. 2:13), and Jesus is a bridge that will never close (Rom. 8:31-39). “Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Rom. 8:34b NIV). Jesus died and was raised from the dead to bridge the gap between us and God.
Jesus spent a great deal of his earthly ministry preaching reconciliation between persons and between humanity and God. He taught that we cannot be reconciled to God while we are separated from each other: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matt. 5:23-24 NIV).
We can build bridges for God too. Jesus has shown us the way: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3b-4 NIV). By Christ’s example, we are called to build bridges of forgiveness, understanding, and love (2 Cor. 5:18-20). We can build bridges between people and between nations. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matt. 5:9 NRSV). When we respond to conflict with acts of peace and friendship, react to anger with love, or respond to need with compassion, we build bridges. Each time we bridge the gaps that separate us from our neighbors, we show God’s love in action. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor. 5:20a NIV). When others are separated from obtaining justice or from basic necessities, we can build bridges. And when others are separated from God, we can show them the way to God’s bridge, Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:11-13 NIV.)
Copyright © 2001 by David Phelps