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Bridge Builders

By Aaron KauffmanAaron M. Kauffman

“There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5 (NLT)

According to missiologist David Shenk, a similar story is told in cultures all across the continent of Africa. God the Creator was once close to humanity, but then left, never to be seen again.

In one version of this story, a woman pounding grain with her mortar and pestle accidentally strikes God in the eye. Offended, God retreats to the heavens. Desiring to reach God, the woman gathers all of the mortars in the village, stacking them one on top of each other to bridge the gap from earth to heaven. She climbs the tower but is one mortar short. In an effort to help, a child grabs the closest mortar to hand up to her, but unfortunately, it is the one at the base of the tower, and it collapses. The message is clear: the chasm between God and humanity is too large for us to cross.

Contemporary English writer Julian Barnes expresses a slightly different sentiment in his memoir, Nothing to Be Frightened Of. He opens with the line, “I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.” God is not just absent but nonexistent, yet the longing for transcendence remains.

What if the God of the universe did not wait for us to bridge the gap between us, whether that gap is mythical or existential, but instead, “gave up his divine privileges … and was born as a human being” (Phil. 2:7)?

If that’s true—and I’m staking my life on the belief that it is—then we have a message that everyone deserves to hear. And they deserve to hear it in the cultural idiom that will make sense to them. We go as bridge-builders, learning the longings of each heart in order to connect them to Jesus.

That’s what our mission workers aim to do: communicate in culturally relevant ways the good news that God became one of us in Jesus Christ to deal with our estrangement, restoring us to friendship with God, and with one another. And if God made the first move to reach us, isn’t it our job to take the first step toward those who haven’t heard?