In-Sight: Finding the Bridge

One of the blessings and challenges of the Gospel is to keep us from falling prey to either/or thinking.

Jesus’ life is an example as he resisted the temptation to side with either the religious establishment of the marginalized masses.  Later, St. Paul reminded the first Christians not to “categorize” people (e.g. Jews or Greeks) and then base our relationships with them in terms of how they end up on our hierarchy of values.

In my own tradition, John Wesley preserved a dynamism in theology and ministry by not dividing one idea (or practice) from another.  As I have said before in this blog, he had a belief that “and” would create a stronger and richer theology than the word “or” does.

And finally, we are reminded in classical spiritual formation not to divide ourselves into isolated categories or put various pieces of ourselves into silos that prevent interaction.  The word salvation means wholeness, and this is what we are to seek for in our love of God, neighbor, and self.

In more-common terms, this means finding “the bridge” between opposites—the link between parts.  We must not stop with the respective category (e.g. rich and poor), but prayerfully search for the higher idea:  e.g. “fellow human being.”  It is in finding the bridges that we find the birth of servanthood, compassion, understanding, etc.  It is on the bridge where we find God at work.  Opposites without bridges are only chasms.  Opposites with bridges are opportunities.

I have not come quickly or easily to hold this view.  I came up through ranks that thought of bridges as compromises—as “selling out” the Gospel.  But slowly, the Holy Spirit was able to show me that none of the people I’ve mentioned above were compromisers.  They knew there were occasions when it was appropriate to make distinctions, even calling certain things “sin.”  Bridges do not eliminate the need to be discerning, even courageous.

But even then, these folks did not let the differentiations destroy the bridges.  And that is the lesson we take from them as we seek to live the Gospel life today.  We do not “sell out” when we build bridges; we only find the pathways where grace is moving.  And….as we do this….we find in a deeply moving way that God “built a bridge” to us through Christ.  Where would any of us be if that had not been the case?

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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