Not lost in translation
I consulted with a group of Christians in the former East Germany shortly after the Berlin Wall came down. Democracy was beginning to take hold, but Soviet gray was still the color palette of the buildings and mood of the people. There were indications that the new government might tolerate Christian schools. I was there to help them determine if starting one was feasible.
I don’t speak German, but I had a good translator. Through him I was trying to communicate like I did with groups in the U.S. But something was off. The people weren’t responding. I pulled out all the stops, but my energy wasn’t coming across. My jokes were falling flat. Finally, a brave lady said to my translator, “Tell the American we just came out of Communism and we are not comfortable speaking in public.” I hung my head and used the universal gesture of cluelessness. I smacked my forehead with the heel of my hand. They understood that. I looked at the lady and said, “Danke schön.” Then I sat down and let my translator tell me what I needed to know.
That was a Pentecost moment for me (see Acts 2). A light came on. It hit me how nuanced communication is. So many things can interfere with understanding one another. Words alone don’t do justice to the fullness of the gospel. Yet people around the world believe it because the Holy Spirit enables them to grasp it. God speaks every language in the love of Jesus.
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