There we were—suspended 270 feet above Bixby Creek and the Pacific Ocean. At the halfway mark in the Big Sur marathon, surrounded by hundreds of runners who paused for a similar reason, Susie and I took pictures on the Bixby Bridge and relished the opportunity to run across one of the most photographed structures on the California coastline. At that moment, everyone who peered down at the deep chasm beneath us understood the value of bridges.
I learned something on that warm day in April, especially given the increasingly fragmented nature of our culture. Although I spent most of my career solving cold-case murders, bridges provide a metaphor we can use to solve an even greater mystery: the challenge of overcoming our differences and traversing our cultural divide to communicate the Gospel. Bridges, it turns out, are a lot like the Gospel.
Bridges Require Trust
We live in a digital world that promotes individuality and autonomy. The internet encourages us to customize and personalize our news consumption, and social media algorithms only increase our preferences for how we think the world is or should be. As we create and cultivate our personal online “echo chambers,” we only amplify our sense of tribalism and our suspicion of traditional institutions of “truth.”
As Susie and I stood that day with hundreds of racers on Bixby Bridge and peered down precariously from the edge of the roadway, we shared a common trust of the bridge’s ability to save us from a fall. We trusted it to do its job, even as we were struggling to finish the race. The Gospel of Jesus Christ provides us with a similar opportunity to trust. Every one of us, regardless of where we may find ourselves in our divided culture, shares a common dilemma: We are fallen.
I’ve taken many killers to jail during my cold-case career. They were all guilty of murder, but you wouldn’t have known it from the lives they had been living in the years following the crime. How can people who commit gruesome murders live good, decent lives for decades afterward? Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck described it this way: “Man is an enigma, whose only solution can be found in God.”
All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), and none of us is righteous (Romans 3:10). Our duplicity creates division, but our cultural divide is small compared to the moral divide between humans and an all-powerful Creator. God’s offer to forgive our sins if we trust Jesus for our salvation is, however, unwavering. It has the power to save us from the fall. God’s offer of salvation does its job, even when we are struggling to finish the race.
Bridges Unite Us in Our Common Need
Our country is also divided politically, and the increasingly venomous discourse has been amplified by the anonymity of many social media platforms. Many people associate Christianity with this harsh rhetoric and now consider it a force for further division. Few understand Christianity as the singularly unifying cure for what ails us.
But that day on the bridge, runners from every walk of life were unified in their need for the overpass. All of us were content to call ourselves “bridge-crossers,” given that there was no other way to cross Bixby Creek. Without the bridge, none of us would have been able to finish the race.
The Gospel is similarly unifying. For those who trust in Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28). While some may try to divide us along racial, ethnic or cultural lines, God shows no partiality. In every race and nation, those who trust Him and do what is right are acceptable to Him (Acts 10:34-35). We are unified in the eyes of God, sharing a common need and a common identity. Created in God’s image, all of us are members of one race: the human race. The Gospel has the power to unify us in our common need for a Savior and our common identity as image-bearers of God. There is no other way to traverse this divide. Without the Gospel, none of us would be able to finish the race.
Bridges Provide Guidance
Our culture is increasingly skeptical of transcendent, objective truth claims. For many, truth is simply a matter of subjective opinion and “lived experience.” Each of us is charting our own course, trusting our emotions, preferences and life experiences to guide us as we become increasingly disconnected and unsure of the future.
But that day on the bridge, every racer was confident the bridge had the singular power to span the divide and lead us to the finish line. Each of us found hope and encouragement as the bridge guided us from our running past toward our running future. The Gospel has the singular power to bridge our cultural division and lead whomever will trust Christ for salvation to a common destination: an eternity with God. Many religious worldviews make claims about God, but these claims are contradictory. Some forms of Buddhism and Confucianism, for example, deny that God exists at all. The monotheistic religions (like Christianity, Judaism and Islam) disagree dramatically about the nature of God and the way of salvation. Given the contradictions between religious systems, they cannot all be true. They are either all false, or one of them could be true. Given their irreconcilable differences, only one could make this claim legitimately.
Jesus understood this. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). According to Jesus, our subjective opinions and lived experiences are powerless to determine what is true about God. Jesus made an objective, transcendent claim about Himself and the promise of eternity. His offer of salvation provides us with a singular way forward. It has the power to guide us from our divided past to a hopeful future with God.
Like a sturdy bridge, the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to trust the only One who can save us from the fall, who can unite us in our need for a Savior and guide us to the greatest destination—eternity with God. It satisfies the desires of our hearts in this time of fragmentation and division. Now more than ever we must share the Gospel and make the case for Christianity, trusting the Holy Spirit to open and convict every heart. Only the Gospel still has the power to bridge the great divide. ©2020 J. Warner Wallace
The Scripture quotation is taken from the New American Standard Bible.
J. Warner Wallace is a Christian apologist and former cold-case homicide detective who has been featured numerous times on NBC’s “Dateline” program for his crime scene expertise. He is a senior fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, an adjunct professor of Christian apologetics at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology and author of books such as “Cold-Case Christianity” and “Forensic Faith.”
Above: Bixby Bridge in Monterey, California.
Photo: Nick Fox/Alamy Stock Photo