What does it mean to burn a bridge?
When we are talking about relationships, it means cutting the ties between another person or group of people.
Why do people burn bridges?
- They burn them because there usually is some kind of conflict or issue that has come between that cannot be resolved.
- They feel they are going in different paths
- They do it to protect their families
- Difference in doctrine or practices
Is this biblical?
Yes. It is mentioned in Matthew 18
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."
Offenses always come. They come because none of us is perfect. Where there is two or more people, there will be disagreements because not everyone will see truth the same.
In the beginning of a relationship, there is always a honeymoon period where you fail to see others faults and differences because you want to have fellowship. And as you are around people more, those faults become very evident.
Clearly we cannot all agree on all points.
When the offense comes what should we do?
Okay, so you have a person that is within your circle that does something that you may not agree with or it bothers you in some way. You have a several choices...
1. Overlook it...
- You can ignore it if it is not something that is worth splitting hairs over. It is just not that big of a deal. You can live with it. It seems like you can accept them for that difference.
- When you overlook others faults, and accept them for who they are you are showing mercy, grace, and humility because you know you are not perfect either. Basically, they could find just as many flaws with you, so you are not going to be quick to judge and condemn them.
- Say they are doing something that you feel is wrong or sinful, you have an obligation to go to them and in love with this offense. Your purpose is to build them up and not tear them down.
- Maybe it causes you to stumble because you are weak in that area, you could bring it up to them privately.
- You go to them and if they listen, you have gained a brother. If they do not listen and become defensive, bring another with you to confront this person. Most people do not realize they are offending others so when you bring it up they will quickly see their error and try to make it better.
- Keep it bottled up and become bitter over it. This is not a good option because you end up resenting that person. You cause yourself to sin because you may think bad thoughts and you can suffer depression, jealousy, or other negativity.
- It is never good to just bottle things up because bitterness is rottenness to the bones. "A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones." Proverbs 14:30
- Cut them off immediately without any chance of redemption.
- There is a gross sin committed that you feel is a threat to your family and you immediately stop any further contact.
"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
Children have not developed maturity yet so they cut people off immediately and spout off when the offense comes. BUT, because they are children, they are also more willing to forgive and move on, as well.
God tells us to be like little children, to learn from their example. The example I shared of what little children said to me is key. They were offended. They did not try to hide their offense. They came out with it and things were hurtful in the beginning. Everyone is pouting and crying. I am not saying we should pout and spout off, of course, but the wonderful thing was that they usually always make up. They become friends again. They forget the offense and move on.
Children are precious because they are transparent, love unconditionally, they forgive easily, and they trust. Those are the things we ought to take from this example. The morning enemy becomes the afternoon friend. Jesus said,
"And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
People like to feel they are on top and in control. They are not going to associate with you because you are not playing by their rules or up to their standards. And they are teaching their kids to do the same. If we had a world filled with bridge burners, we would all have to live on islands. And that is not the will of God. Sometimes I would like to leave the world behind and live on my own island because the more you deal with people, the more problems that come up because people are limited in what they know. For they cannot know the heart of man and are so quick to judge. But, as I wish for my island, I realize that God put me here to be with others, to minister, to love, to learn from, and to sometimes walk through difficult times with others.
And sometimes an old bridge burning it is a good thing. They lit the match and it can tell you something about their character. Some people are very toxic to be around and it is better not to keep company with them. You can be guilty by association. It is a complicated subject to which there are many circumstances that can call for diverse measures.
There are bridge burners, and their are those that have been burned and wounded. Those that try to pour water on the flames only to find a great space in-between.
We are strangers wandering in a foreign land, for our home is in heaven. When we get rejected we can also become bitter. I have been guilty also of that in the past! We can let it ruin us or we can cling ever closer to our Savior. He is always there to pick us up when we fall. And sometimes those bitter moments of rejection are the very things that cause us to become less dependent on our circumstances or other people for our joy. Real joy comes from God. Real satisfaction comes from doing His will. And His grace is always sufficient.
When others cut us off, God is still there and think of it this way, God is greater than man. The one who knew no sin is still always there. He is not too prideful, He won't Lord over us, or condemn us for not reaching His standard if we are His. In fact, that is exactly where He wants us. He wants us to realize that we can't measure up so that we can accept His gift of salvation. And He surely won't burn bridges, he will patiently work with us, and not against. Only by His glorious grace can we ever build bridges that have been long since burned. But with God all things are possible.
"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."