Sunday, June 16, 2013

What language are you speaking?

As I was walking home yesterday, I was practicing counting to ten in Italian in my head. We leave this week for our Vision Trip to see if Italy is where the LORD is leading us to move long-term to share the Gospel.

I started thinking about potential future Italian language school...and how important it is. We must learn to communicate {and effectively} in order to share the Gospel with dear souls. This is the POINT of going. And we have to know our audience-- what do certain words mean to them? What is the cultural context? What is their background? How do they define words that I might define slightly differently? etc.

It then hit me: we need to be doing this all the time in life everywhere-- learning the "language" of others.

It is so easy to take our understanding and definitions of "God" and "justice" and "mercy", wrath, love, grace, atonement, sacrifice, etc. and share with others who might have a very different understanding of those words than us, the Bible, or maybe even no definition at all!

If I walked the streets of Italy sharing the Gospel in English, a few heads might turn recognizing the language. And while God can perform miracles, for the sake of argument: it would be an incredibly ineffective use of my time. However, I could still go home and say, "I shared the Gospel with over 1,000 people today!" and feel pretty good about that.

Yet...not ONE of those 1,000 people really heard the Gospel. I did not give grace to those who heard. I sat ignorant of my audience, speaking in words they couldn't understand, and yet "checking" off my list that I've evangelized or did ministry "the best I could."

I started wondering how often I've done that in my life. Spoken more than asked questions. Wanted to "answer" before really understanding what was being asked. Left a conversation feeling good that I'd done all I could, when perhaps I needed a bit more education in that area.

This affects the way we interact with Believers as well. We must be careful to listen-- quick to listen. Slow to speak. How many times are we encouraged with these very words in Scripture? This means listening to the WHOLE story; the bigger picture-- getting a better idea of where people's hearts are at. Our hearts are, in fact, where our sin first resides, and the reason why Christ came! He is clearly after our hearts.

So what about you? Have you ever had someone just totally miss you, as though they answered in another language? Are you a student of those you love and care for? Desiring to go to their "language school" to love and communicate with them more effectively?

As we face our mundane lives, conflict, marriage, seek to comfort those facing tragedy, singleness, discipling or being discipled, parenting...whatever context we are speaking in: would we learn the languages of humility, love, active-listening, and...the language of our audience. That we might love them in wisdom to the glory and praise of God.


Unknown said...

Completely enjoyed reading this post Janelle. Great thoughts ... Quick to listen. Slow to speak.

Ben Fuller said...

Great post! I didn't know you were a blogger! I loved the idea of learning to speak the "language" of different people even when they speak English like me. Can't wait to hear about your trip.