This article was originally written on September 3, 2003. I post it today for your reflection and edification.
Early Sunday morning I was listening to WRBS, our local Christian radio station, casually enjoying the presentation by Ravi Zacharias, when something he said hit home to my core and bolted me out of bed with my mind startled at the implications. The consequence of the image burning itself into my brain was so clear that I felt as if I had a vision; I even startled my wife. While Ravi was using the image in another context, its clarity to the current situation I and my church were facing seemed undeniable. Let me explain.
Ravi’s message was how Christianity was unique in the religions of mankind in that it not only offered propitiation of sin, but also the power to change yourself so that you no longer were a slave to sin. He illustrated this difference with a famous story and movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai. In the story, which is based on historical events, the head of the British prisoner contingent reaches an accommodation with his captors after a test of wills. The Japanese will make certain concessions and the British will build the bridge over the river. The prisoners compromised with the enemy, helping them advance their agenda, albeit for better treatment.
In Ravi’s message, the prisoners are Christians held captive by their sin and the bridge is compromising with the enemy in a way that doesn’t break the bonds of sin in our lives. The only solution is the one taken at the close of the movie and that is to blow up the bridge. For the Christian that is embracing the power of Christ to defeat the cycle of sin in our lives, even if we have to do it one sin at a time, even if we have to do it more than once.
All well and good, but how does that apply to the Episcopal Church, my church, and me? What I saw in that moment of inspiration was that we biblical Christians in the Episcopal Church are like the British prisoners in the movie. We are held captive while a real enemy has taken hold of the church and is advancing its agenda. To get better treatment, to be left alone, we help them build their bridge, saying to ourselves we can use the bridge too. We make little compromises, hoping for a better day. Until one day, like the eruption of recent events surrounding the election of Bishop Robinson, we realize that we have only succeeded in building a bridge for the enemy to advance their agenda and our only option, beside leaving entirely, is to blow up the bridge, to stop being an enabler.
From all that I read about the larger Anglican Communion and the dissenters within the Episcopal Church everyone is coming to the same conclusion, it is time to blow up the bridge. It should not surprise us that we are in this predicament. Jesus was very explicit in John 17 that he sends us into the world but we are not to be of it. As a matter of fact he assures us that the world will hate us, even as it hated him, since we are his. He further warns us Matthew 10 that our enemies will be in our own household. For us, in this circumstance, that is the household of faith.
So each of us has a choice, a personal nexus point. Do we continue to build the bridge on the River Kwai or do we blow it up? For Ravi Zacharias and myself sadly the answer is clear.
You should know that in my personal life I have blown up that bridge. I no longer attend an Episcopal Church. As I further reflected today on this little article, I realized that we Christians have an awful lot of bridges in our lives, many of which need to be blown up, since their only function has come to be as an occasion for sin and compromise, no matter what we tell ourselves. Often these are extremely personal decisions, since what is a problem for one person may not be for another. What doesn’t change is the need to act on this insight.
Suffice it to say that I pray you will take this little essay to heart and examine your life, seeking out the bridges that need removing. Thank you John for reminding me of this article today. May the grace of God empower us all to act everywhere that action is needed.