“‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” – John 8:11
You probably don’t know this, but I love a good poem. And one of my favorites is a very inspiring one: “The Bridge Builder,” by Will Allen Dromgoole. It tells the story of an old man who came to a vast chasm while traveling on foot on a cold, gray evening. To cross it, he had to wade through a “sullen tide.” Although “the sullen stream had no fear for him,” once the old man had safely reached the other side, he turned around and built a bridge back the way he had come.
A fellow traveler asked the old man: Why, when his journey was nearly over, would he build a bridge he would never need to use? The old man explained that on his journey, he had seen a “fair-haired youth” who would be traveling the same way after him. The chasm that had been no problem for the old man, he said, might be a pitfall to the young man who would follow. The old man concluded: “He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
There are two types of people in this world: those who build bridges and those who burn them. Which type are you? There’s no doubt that Jesus Christ was a bridge builder. One clear example of this can be found in John 8, when some Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus who was caught committing adultery. They said to Jesus, “‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’” (vs. 3-5). As usual, the Pharisees were trying to trip him up. But as usual, Jesus was way ahead. His simple way of dismissing these charges was to doodle on the ground for a few moments before standing up and saying, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7).
That got rid of the crowd quickly. But that’s when Jesus’ ministry to the woman really began. He stood and asked her, “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’“ (vs. 10-11).
You’ve probably heard it said that God loves the sinner, but hates the sin. This account in John 8 illustrates this truth beautifully. Jesus built a bridge of mercy and compassion to this woman who didn’t deserve it. Why? Because he loved her. She was one of his most precious creations, and he didn’t’ want to see her die in her sin without God and without hope.
But in that love, Jesus didn’t ignore her sin. He didn’t overlook her adultery. He told her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” With those words, Jesus demonstrated the perfect balance between compassion and speaking the hard truth. Usually you and I focus on one or the other. Sometimes we’re very compassionate to those who have messed up royally, but we don’t correct them. We don’t point them to the truth about their sin, so they end up doing the same stupid thing over and over. And at other times we’re quite good at spewing truth all over someone who’s goofed up, but we do it with very little compassion. The truth hurts by itself; we don’t need to beat people over the head with it.
Remember what the Apostle John writes about Jesus in John 1:17: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” In John 8, Jesus shows us the perfect balance between grace and truth, between mercy and justice. He speaks the truth in love—building a bridge of grace and truth to a broken woman who was lost and dying in her sin. And Jesus has called you and me as his followers to do the same.
When’s the last time you reached out to someone who felt they didn’t have a friend in the world and you showed them the compassion and love of Christ? Jesus was a bridge builder. He came to build bridges to sinners and save them. He built bridges to fishermen, lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors; he built bridges to those who were sick, hurting and hopeless. And, thank God, he built bridges to you and to me. So, if you and I are serious about following him, we need to put down our matches and lighter fluid and start building bridges instead of burning them.
As I shared in last week’s column, 2020 has been a pop quiz given to us by God to prepare us for tougher tests up ahead. And honestly, many Christians haven’t been doing very well on this quiz, especially in regard to building bridges to people who desperately need God. Many Christians have very strong opinions about COVID, and at times this year we’ve burnt bridges with friends and family who believe differently. And if you haven’t noticed this in the past few months, many Christians have some VERY strong opinions about politics. At times this year we’ve carried out a scorched-earth policy on friends and family who hold different political views.
It’s easy to forget that the clock is ticking. We don’t have much time to reach those around us who are lost and dying without Jesus Christ. Two weeks ago I did a funeral for a 19-year old man who found himself in a very dark place and took his own life. Last week I assisted with a funeral for a young woman whose life ended tragically on her 24th birthday. Friends, life is so short. We don’t have time to burn bridges with those who need to hear the good news of Christ’s hope, peace and healing. Let’s finish 2020 strong—building bridges for people who need both grace and truth.
Dane Davis is the Pastor
of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our live worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at