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. Here are some ideas that will help you do that.
Be vulnerable. Isolation makes you hard and brittle. You let nothing penetrate. 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 engage in.
Empathize. This is where you put yourself in the other person’s shoes and feel what they feel. You will have to connect with something in yourself that knows the same feeling someone else is experiencing. Resist the temptation to solve their problem or make it better. “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me,” is better than, “Well, it could be worse.” Empathizing makes a bridge to someone else’s feelings.
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.
Above all, ask the Holy Spirit to empower you in each of these things. We can do none of this in our own strength.