How do you handle conflict within your family, neighborhood or in the community?

I read a story about two brothers, living on adjoining farms for 40 years, sharing machinery,  and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. A  small misunderstanding developed between them and grew into a major conflict.  It finally exploded in an exchange of bitter words followed by months of silence.

One morning a carpenter came to the older brother‘s door. “I’m looking for some work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have a small job here. Could I help you?”

“Yes, I do,” said the older brother. “Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us.  Well, see that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me an eight foot fence, so I won’t have to see his place or his face anymore.”

The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the materials and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, and nailing. About sunset, when the older brother returned from town, the carpenter had just finished his job.

The older brother’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other!

To his amazement, the younger brother was coming across the bridge, his hand outstretched.  “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done,” he said. 

The two brothers met in the middle of the bridge taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder and leave.

“Wait! Stay a few days,” said the older brother. “I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.”

Centuries ago there were twin brothers who became estranged.  One stole his brother’s birthright from his blind, dying father, who blessed his sons.  The older brother became angry and threatened to kill his younger brother.  The younger brother left home with his young family in fear that his brother would take his life.

Years later, the brothers, now aging, met in the open desert. 
“Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (Genesis 33:4, NIV)  Jacob, later named Israel, was forgiven by his older brother, Esau and they were united again.

Do you need to build a bridge today?  Look around you and find someone close to you - a parent, sibling, friend or neighbor.  You were once close together but something happened.  You became alienated by a misunderstanding or unkind words.  Today you may be neighbors but no longer speak to one another.  In fact, you may have already built a fence. It’s time to tear down that fence and build a bridge. 

It could be that you are estranged from God.  He never left you but you left Him.  He has built a bridge for you to return through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.  God is ready to welcome you back home!  He’s just a prayer away.

William J. Kirkpatrick, wrote these inspiring words as a prayer hymn,

    I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home.
    The paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home. 

    I’ve wasted many precious years, Now I’m coming home.  
    I now repent with bitter tears, Lord, I’m coming home.

    I’m tired of sin and straying, Lord; Now I’m coming home.  
    I’ll trust Thy Love, believe Thy Word; Lord, I’m coming home.

    My soul is sick and straying, Lord; Now I’m coming home.  
    My strength renew, my hope restore; Lord, I’m coming home.

    Refrain: Coming home, coming home,  Never more to roam.  
    Open wide Thine arms of love, Lord I’m coming home!

(Hymns for Low Voice, pg. 98. Lillenas Publishing Co., Kansas City, MO)
(Excerpts taken from a column originally written by David L. Cowles and published in the  “Your Faith” section of the
Newark Advocate, OH, 2003)