Jesus gave us one command before he left. It was the last thing He told us. He told us to go. Go into all the world. Go into all the world and make disciples. Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. That is a massive undertaking and it is entirely inconsistent with current cultural trends toward separation and isolation. How can you go anywhere with walls around you, and no bridges to get there? “Going” in a season of walls will take some serious bridge-building or you can’t even get there. We will have to buck the trend. What will help us do that?
Be vulnerable. Isolation makes you hard and brittle. You let nothing penetrate you. You may think you are safe, but you will become like a stone. To be vulnerable is to risk getting hurt. That’s what love is. In fact, you can’t love without being hurt. Ask God about that one.
Be open-minded. Nothing will keep you more isolated than a closed mind. An open mind can connect. Be ready and willing to be open to new ways of seeing and new ways of doing things. Be teachable; ready to learn.
Look for what you have in common. This is the most obvious bridge to anyone from any culture including our own: Find what you have in common with someone. It’s the place you can start, even if it’s tennis, or sewing, or model trains, or where you grew up — doesn’t matter as long as you both have an interest or similarity you can talk about it.
Empathize. This is where you put yourself in the other’s shoes. Try to imagine what their world is like. Whatever you can do to identify with them will help this process. Ask them to tell you about their world. Ask them to paint a picture of it in their mind or on paper. If you can get at this visually or artistically, it will really help. Watch a movie together that portrays someone’s background, culture or experience. However you can get at this it will help with the bridge you are building.
Cross over. Don’t expect to meet half way. You may have to go all the way over to the other side. Be willing to do that for the sake of the connection.
Be willing to admit you were wrong. My wife and I have two imaginary signs we hold up every once in a while when it’s appropriate: “YOU WERE RIGHT” and “I WAS WRONG.” It does wonders for our communication. As a matter of fact, being right is way overrated. You may decide to lose this battle for the sake of gaining a better bridge, especially in matters of lesser importance.
Above all, be more eager to listen than to talk. The more you find out about the other person, the more opportunity there will be to find places to connect. Be better at questions than you are at answers. Questions build bridges.