Build Bridges, Not Fences - Encouragement for Today - August 21, 2017

Karen Ehman

August 21, 2017
Build Bridges, Not Fences

“And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.” 1 John 4:21 (CSB)

"Look, if this is going to be yet another call telling me I'm not obeying God, then I'm just going to politely hang up now, OK?"

The voice on the other end of the line was that of a new friend from church. She and her husband had just prayerfully opted to put their two formerly homeschooled elementary kids in the neighborhood public school. That morning — the first day of school — she had already fielded two calls from other women questioning her family's decision.

I had not called to give her a lecture. Not at all. Since my home was across the street from the kids’ new school, I’d called suggesting she might want to put me down as an emergency contact in case one of them got sick or injured and she was unable to be reached.

"Also," I continued, "I can see both of your kids out playing at recess right now on the monkey bars. They look like they are having a ball. I thought hearing that might set your mind at ease."

She apologized for her initial response, then broke down and cried.

Schooling choices can divide. They can force friends to the opposite sides of the awful "mommy wars." How we feed our infants. What we feed our toddlers. If we’re a stay-at-home parent, a work-from-home mom or one who’s employed outside the home. It doesn’t end there. There are rifts that segregate the married women from the singles. The traditional service church attenders from those who prefer a concert-like worship experience. The organic-only eaters from the fast food brood.

Different decisions can lead to many divisions.

Often in my adult years, I’ve felt on the outside due to some shifting choices my husband and I made regarding our family. We homeschooled for 17 years. Then our youngest went to a public high school while his older brother finished up homeschooling. Being on both sides of the pencil-lined fence at once taught me the need to grant grace. Changing my employment status from stay-at-home mom to work-from-home mom also stretched my understanding of what it means to love others practically. The criticism and — worse yet — the deafening silence and cold-shoulder treatment was painful when I changed something about our lifestyle to the displeasure of other Christian friends.

Today’s key verse gives us a cautionary directive from God about how Christ-followers are to treat each other, And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister” (1 John 4:21).

What does it look like to love a fellow Christian who makes a life choice (that isn’t a sin issue) that’s different from yours? Well, I know what it doesn’t look like. It doesn’t look like caustic and critical comments or behind-the-back gossip. It doesn’t exclude someone now that they’ve changed where they — or their kids — spend their daytime hours. And it certainly doesn’t include making cloaked comments on social media designed to make someone else feel left out or somehow less-than.

If we claim to love God, we must also love each other. Will we dare to use our differences as a way to show the watching world that Christians build bridges across potential divides? That we don’t all have to reach the same conclusions on similar issues because God can lead us in different directions? That we can have unity without having to be carbon copies of each other?

Life — especially family life — is a voyage packed with choices. Prayerfully supporting a friend's choice is a way to show unconditional love. While connections with other women in your exact life situation can be crucial for idea gathering, perspective and empathy, don't narrow your choice of friends down to only those who live the same life you do.

Pick up the phone. Reach out. Build loving bridges, not prickly fences. You’ll obey God’s command — and reflect His love — when you do.

Father, teach me to genuinely love and practically support others whose lives do not look exactly like mine. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.” (CSB)

Romans 14:13, “Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.” (HCSB)

For encouragement in your life as a mom, check out Karen Ehman’s book Hoodwinked: 10 Myths Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off.

For practical ways to support other mothers’ schooling choices, click over to Karen’s blog where she’s sharing some creative ideas and giving away a back-to-school basket of books to encourage moms.

Ask God to show you if there’s another believer you can reach out to whose life looks very different than yours?

© 2017 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105

Originally published Monday, 21 August 2017.