So, there is this church leader who made some comments this week about how it is more Christian (not to be confused with Christ like) to build bridges than it is to build walls.
It touched off a firestorm of controversy and media frenzy because many people felt it was aimed at a US Presidential candidate (and I use the term loosely).
I want to share a few thoughts on another way that the church can be more Christ-like by building bridges.
Orphan Care – Orphan Care is what you’d call a hot button issue in the church right now. How can you not want to help poor vulnerable children? Of course you do and of course we must, as a church follow the call of James 1:27 and “care for the orphans…..”
But wait a minute, I want to ask you a couple of questions about that:
- Yes, the church must care for orphans, but is the church really willing to look at the communities where these kids are hurting and do what it takes to meet their need right there? Are we willing to build a bridge to the hungry and the hurting and the struggling to help them and their kids? Even when it’s messy?
- Is the church really willing to take on what is necessary to help the kids after they have been adopted? Have you ever noticed how, when someone says, “We’re going to adopt,” everyone is so happy for them and so excited and so impressed and so……. But is the church willing to accept the fact that most adopted kids have been through more than any of us would wish on anyone and consequently they are going to have some battle scars – and those scars make parenting them hard – often way harder than adoptive parents had ever imagined. Are we, as a church, willing to build a bridge and come alongside those parents who are struggling? Even if we can’t solve it, just to sit there with them in their pain?
- Is the church willing to build a bridge to the adoption community and essentially say, “We don’t know what we don’t know, so tell us how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to your children, to you, to the children of our community?” Unfortunately, the number of people I’ve talked to who say that their church is willing to do that on a long term basis (after the honeymoon period is over) is very very small.
Mental Illness – I think it’s improving, but I think this is another area where the church needs to do a lot more in building bridges to people in their family, in their community. There are a lot of people who are struggling. They are struggling with mental illness and in many cases, if not most, they aren’t able to talk to people in their church about it. “How are you today?” “Fine.” We need to be more comfortable with saying, “No, I’m not fine” and in order to do that, the church needs to be more comfortable with building a bridge and meeting the people who are not fine where they are at.
But what? You say you don’t know what to say to someone who is struggling with depression? You don’t know what to say to someone who just had to admit their child into an inpatient mental health facility? May I offer a couple of suggestions on what to say?
- I’m sorry you’re going through this struggle.
- Can we pray about it right now?
- Nothing – don’t say anything, just be there.
- Would you like to talk about it or tell me more?
If people in the church can step out of their comfort zone and become uncomfortable while welcoming the hurting, it builds a bridge and that’s the type of bridge building I believe Jesus wants us to do.
It’s not easy. Actually, it’s very hard and it’s way outside of most people’s comfort zone, but it’s two places where the hands and feet of Christ really meet the needy and the struggling.
May we all build bridges in our lives and in our churches to meet and reach those who are struggling, and in reality, we’re all struggling.