Bridge Restrictions

Where there is no wood, the fire goes out;
And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”
Proverbs 26:20

 After a very quiet week between another believer and myself, we had a long time to talk and bring out some issues that had been allowed to stir within each of us and were not working their way toward any good. As I came across the above verse from the book of Proverbs, I felt what transpired during our walk was contained in these few short words.

Getting something out into the open, exposing both sides of an issue, and being able to see the full picture of what you have been struggling to see helps you at least start to understand the view point of another person and the intentions behind their actions. Sometimes you can see the other person's point of view, and in that seeing you can either come to an understanding or you can see that there is no ability to bridge an understanding because of lack of commonality between the two of you – that is where is takes even more power to be bold enough to say, “I think we must agree to disagree.”

Another place I was reading through in the bible this morning was in the book of Philemon. If you are not familiar with the book, it is a very short letter from Paul to Philemon regarding a slave (Onesimus) who had run away from his owner (Philemon) and after a conversion to Christianity of this slave and a time of discipleship under Paul, Paul had the harsh task of sending this slave back to his owner. But in the letter Paul sends back with the slave to give to his owner upon his return, Paul laid his heart out with some suggested parameter of Christian love upon which the owner would be wise to follow as he received this slave back into his home.

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you...” Philemon 1:8-9a

An appeal in love must not just be one that uses the excuse of grace to dismiss the actions of another person. There is that “fitting” part that is the balance of truth and grace which must be considered. Healthy boundaries within the law of love and truth must be established in our own lives and hearts so that we not only can live within the boundaries which God sets in His law but also so that in turn we can live with others in the same context without stepping on each others toes - this is what unfortunately started the issue between this other believer and myself.

Building bridges in relationships seems to work best when those bridges are tempered by weight restrictions and healthy crossing rules. You can think of a bridge into your life with another believer more as a lift bridge than an always open bridge. Yes, with the Lord it is healthy to maintain that always open bridge, but with others there are times when you need to put down the crossing barrier, put up the middle of your bridge, and escape for a while to a place of solitude from which you can look down upon the world for a short time before you need to come back and handle the people who come and go through your life and everything they bring to you from theirs.

As Paul ends his letter to Philemon, he does not command this slave owner to do anything in particular. But rather, Paul in his writing implies that he trusts in the obedience this man will use under the Lord's conviction. How happy and joyful we all could be if in putting down some healthy boundaries with those around us, we could clearly say that these people were respectful enough in the Lord to honor our needs and respect our wishes.

True joy is found when we no longer have to compel others to do what we find necessary – meaning we don't have to hold up the sign and keep reminding every person who desires to trod on our bridge that they need to be respectful and honoring of the parameters we need in order to keep healthy relational boundaries in our life. But, unfortunately not all people understand the need for boundaries and therefore we must also be consistent advocates for those boundaries in our lives.

Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” Philemon 1:20-21

If you find that today has you trampled down by other people in your life. Take some time put up your bridge and look down for a while and pray about how you may need to post some crossing restrictions in your life so that you can have more joy and peace with those who trample on across your bridge each day. After my conversation yesterday, and having enough time to hear this other woman's side of the story, I am convinced that she is unable to establish crossing restrictions herself as she looks upon my life and the life of my family. I do have confidence that she will be obedient to the Lord in her life, but at the same time there is a need to be very pointed, just as Paul was with Philemon, about the duty she has toward God and those around her to stay within not only the grace of the Lord in our future interactions but also within the law of the Lord so that she is not overstepping her authority.

Yes, getting everything out in the open with others is hard but in the end the willingness to be open, honest, and truthful does give you a better idea where your bridges need to be restricted so you do not get burned by the strife being brought into your life.  God does not intend for us to be burned by the inconsiderate actions and words of others.  Instead, God wants us to stand up in truth, be willing to put down healthy boundaries, and then live in the peace He has given us to stand firm in our lives and in the convictions that He alone can give us to live in obedience to His calling.


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