1 Corinthians 9:16-23
“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
There are an abundance of bridges in this world. Small ones. Big ones. Steel ones. Wooden ones. Bridges built by one and bridges built by hundreds. Bridges that cost nothing made out of a fallen tree and bridges that cost millions of dollars made out of the strongest and most durable materials available.
What did people do before bridges? Why did someone imagine, design and build the first bridge?
Simple. There was a need. Someone said, “I’m here and I want to get there.” So they built a bridge.
They didn’t say, “I’m here and I want to get there so I’ll build half of a bridge and expect someone else to build the other half.”
Building half of a bridge and waiting in expectation leads to the reality that the other half may never get built which results in disappointment.
In the scripture above, Paul saw the need and was moved to action.
Compassion: : sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
When we are faced with circumstances that display a clear need, a need so important that it causes an undeniable compassion to well up within us, action should follow.
We should resist the desire to ignore, minimize, or become apathetic to the need. If we don’t see the need for what it is, we dodge the compassion that drives us into action to build a bridge. Worse yet, we may end up building barriers instead.
When bridges are not built, needs go unmet, people remain lost and alone, the wavering Christian continues to wander, and healing becomes elusive to the hurting.
How do we become bridge builders in our communities, in our homes and in this world?
Consider the person who built the very first bridge. Before construction began, before designs were drawn, before the bridge was even imagined in their mind there was a recognition of the need to change. Who they were when they walked the path the day before is different than who they are now. They’re no longer someone who walks past the gap unaware. They are aware of the need. The gravity of the need gives birth to the compassion that drives action. Suddenly there’s a realization that to be a bridge builder, change must happen.
To become a bridge builder we should recognize the need to change by adopting a servant spirit. For the bridge to be built, a decision to become a servant to seeing the need met must happen.
To become a bridge builder we should recognize that it’s critical to be real. You can’t fake your way when building a bridge. Real, raw, honesty about who you are and where you’re at is foundational to reach the goal. Some things you know and some you don’t. When you commit to being real, next steps become clearer.
To become a bridge builder we should recognize the need to put aside personal preferences to complete the goal. The original bridge builder may have really liked shiny marbles and thought that the bridge would attract more use if built with shiny marbles. I’m glad the bridges I trust with the safety and security of my family and loved ones are not built out of shiny marbles.
To become a bridge builder we should recognize the need to sacrifice. Building bridges is no small task. It takes sacrifice of study, time, energy and our own desires to make it happen.
To become a bridge builder we should recognize the need for vision. Although the original bridge builder began with the goal of reaching the other side, the vision of the future of the bridge soon becomes evident. The bridge, once built, reached out to those on the other side. We can now meet them. They can now meet us. We can now meet each other. Countless others stand to benefit from the bridge.
In the example of Paul, let us not seek to build bridges to gain recognition, fame or praise. Let us become better at recognizing needs that birth compassion and action with the knowledge that our greatest example of this took place when God saw us & gave His son Jesus.
What can we do to become all things to all people so that some may be saved?
This world is in dire need of bridges and bridge builders.
Hope to see you out there in the construction zone.
(Comments and feedback is always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org)