The Language They Speak
Listen to Audio (right click to save)
My life was profoundly affected by the example of five American missionaries who died trying to get the Gospel to a Stone Age tribe in Ecuador who had never heard the name of Jesus. They were actually murdered by the tribe that was then known as the Aucas. Amazingly, the wife of one of those missionaries and the sister of another actually went to the tribe that had killed their loved ones to tell them about Jesus. Today, some of the murderers of the missionaries are the pastors of the Auca, or Waorani, church. It's an amazing story.
I had the unforgettable privilege a few years ago of going to the Ecuadorian jungle to tape a radio program about what happened there. And I met Mincaye, one of the killers, one of the pastors. I learned that those missionary women had difficulty translating the Bible into the native language because this tribe had no word for, actually no concept of, "forgive." But the message somehow had gotten through to Mincaye. Here's what he said: "What we did to those missionaries was a terrible thing. But one day soon I will see them in heaven because Jesus has washed our hearts."
A spiritual rescuer had come to people to whom the word "forgive" meant nothing. But God's messenger to them did what effective missionaries have always done. She found a way to say it in words the people could understand. We can do no less for the spiritually dying people around us.
Obviously, the need to translate Christ's message is hard to miss in a foreign setting where there is a clearly different linguistic language. But the need to translate the Jesus-story is easy to miss when our neighbors and friends speak the same linguistic language we do, but a different cultural language. The words of our Christian "tribe" simply have no meaning, or the wrong meaning, to the lost "tribe" right next to us. Many lost people assigned to us by God have no better understanding of "born again," or "saved," or "accepting Christ" than Mincaye had of "forgive."
In our word for today from the Word of God, we discover one big reason thousands of people from all over the world came to Jesus in the first outreach ever held by the Christian Church. It was Jerusalem, it was Pentecost, and according to Acts 2:6, "Each one heard them (that is the apostles) speaking in his own language."
Now that was a special miracle from God, but it underscores that people must hear Christ's message in a language they can understand, which our church language - which I call Christianese - is not. Maybe you've been transmitting the Good News about Jesus and getting little or no response. Could it be that they're stumbling over your vocabulary? You can't just transmit the Good News; you have to translate it into everyday, non-religious words.
In Jesus' parable of the four soils, three of which produced little or no good harvest, we see the major difference between those three soils and the soil that produced great fruit. In each case, Jesus explains that "this is the man who hears the word." But where there was a great harvest, Jesus said, "This is the man who hears the word and understands it" (Matthew 13:23).
This is life-or-death information we have to deliver. We cannot afford to have our lost family and friends miss it because we said it in words they don't understand. It's time to move beyond the comfort of our Christianeze to communicate the message people cannot afford to miss. The words we use can be decisive for each of us in our personal rescue mission for Jesus.
You're God's missionary where you are. If you make the effort to translate the Good News into the language of the person who needs it, you can be part of a life-giving miracle!
Learn three secrets to loving what you do from Ron Hutchcraft's message, "How to Love Your Job No Matter What." This complimentary CD provides new perspective on how your boss, your pay, and your hard work can help you love your job.