Ministry Resources

Bridges or Boulders?

Author: Howard W. Stevens

When it comes to our relationship with unbelievers and fellow Christians, are we bridges or boulders?

Boulders hinder access, present obstacles, and block opportunities. They are heavy and difficult to move and may require special equipment to lift them out of the way. In contrast, bridges span chasms, provide access to new areas, and open highways to opportunities and fellowship.

Although we would never intentionally choose to be a boulder or a stumbling block, in our effort to win someone to Christ, we could inadvertently turn the person off by manifesting any of the following behaviors.

Having a holier-than-thou attitude, judging the person, and condemning him or her to hell.

The Pharisees demonstrated a self-righteous attitude, and Jesus accused them of shutting the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces and not allowing others to enter (Matt. 23:13). We can act as a bridge by loving and accepting people where they are. Jesus associated with undesirables. When Levi, a tax collector, held a banquet for Jesus at his house, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law complained, “‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?'” (Luke 5:30). [1] Jesus replied, “‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance'” (vv. 31-32).

When the Pharisees spoke against His visiting Zacchaeus, Jesus told them, “‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost'” (Luke 19:10).

Speaking disparagingly about the person’s religious beliefs

Jesus met people where they were and spoke to them in language they could understand. If we allow the unbeliever to share his or her view of God, we can then try to bridge the gap of understanding by sharing what the Bible says about God in everyday language, rather than using religious terms.

Getting caught up in a political discussion

When the Pharisees and Herodians brought up the controversial political topic of paying taxes to the Roman government, which was oppressing the Jews, Jesus short-circuited the discussion. “‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s'” (Matt. 22:21).

Acting as if we have all the answers, doing all the talking, or using the Bible as a hammer and quoting Scripture nonstop

When we are a good listener and friend, we can gain the ear of the unbeliever. But a proud attitude and being a know-it-all will send the person running in the opposite direction. Anyone can quote Scripture. Even Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus. God hasn’t commissioned us to have a monologue with unbelievers. “He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame” (Prov. 18:13).

Being rude or disrespectful, criticizing the person’s appearance or ethnicity, or becoming impatient or angry

Those who belong to Christ are called to manifest the fruit of the Spirit and to treat others with gentleness and respect. Being a good example of an authentic Christian means that our actions and attitudes match what the Bible says. Paul urges, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered” (Prov. 17:27).

If the person doesn’t respond the way we had hoped, we can demonstrate God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. We cannot save anyone–only God can. Therefore, we must be patient and allow the Holy Spirit to work in the person’s heart.

God wants us to be bridges, not boulders. As bridges, we must remember that we are facilitators. God, the Holy Spirit, is the Prime Mover and the force that motivates unbelievers to cross the bridge to faith in Jesus Christ.

[1] All Scripture verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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