Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bulding Bridges

When I first read in the papers that we were going to build our half of the bridge to Singapore a few weeks ago, I had a strong suspicion that it would not be carried through. Subsequent events that followed proved me right. Why did we want to build half a bridge? It was more to force the other side to stop negotiating and delaying and get on with what would be good for both our countries to replace the 82-year-old causeway with a better one that would ease the traffic congestion. This was not to be as the other side refused to play the game.

What does it take to be a good neighbour? Proverbs 3:27-29 says "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbour, 'Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow' – when you now have it with you. Do not plot harm against your neighbour, who lives trustfully near you". The biblical ideal is for us to trust and help each other, not to suspiciously try to outwit and take advantage of one another; to prosper your neighbour and not
beggar him, as our former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahatir used to say.

The sad part is we have developed such a kiasu mentality that we are always comparing and competing with each other because we think win-lose instead of win-win. Part of such thinking stems from the inherent competitive spirit drummed into most of us by our largely Western education system where one has to compete to be the top student. This carries over to our working life where one has to compete for promotions.

I was quite amused to be told by a missionary about her frustration with the Mongolians she was ministering to because they all copied from each other in their exams, including the Bible students. Could this be a cultural trait, whereby it is not only acceptable but good to help one another as a team to achieve a common goal that helps everyone to get good rewards?

After years of training the students in our educational system to work individually, companies are now evaluating how well a person can work with others in a team; it is a necessary character trait they want to see before they choose to employ the person. All sorts of workshops are conducted to build teams and help the members to trust and work with each other in order for the necessary synergy to be achieved that
would ensure greater success than the sum of individual efforts by each employee. The biggest problems in the workplace or churches and Christian organizations are not technical but are caused by people not being able to work alongside one another. What will it take and when will we learn to work with each other instead of competing against each other?

by Dr Living Lee, GCF icommentaryLet me end with the story of the farmer who hated his estranged brother who lived next to him across a big ditch he had dug to mark their common border. One day a stranger came round asking for work. On learning that he was a carpenter, the farmer set him to build a high fence in front of his house so that he need not even see the face of the brother he detested. The farmer was angry and surprised at the end
of the day when he returned from the fields that instead of building the fence as instructed, the carpenter had used the lumber to build a bridge across the ditch instead. Before he could scold the carpenter, his brother turned up with a gift, shook his hand and apologized for all the wrongs he had done to him in the past and hugged him as his long lost brother.

When will we learn to stop justifying ourselves by asking "who is my neighbour?" and begin to love him as the good Samaritan did in Jesus' parable? We can always find the excuses to be suspicious and protect ourselves from being taken advantage of when dealing with others but as long as both are determined not to lose out, there will be no real winners. It may take a little woodwork by the Carpenter to get us
going with each other instead of at each other. He has already built the bridge at Calvary when He was nailed to the two pieces of crude timber in the shape of a Roman cross. Are we willing to cross that bridge He has built for us at such a great cost to Himself and make up with our brother?

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