Sorry, I don’t speak Christianese… (can you translate that for me?)
This past weekend I was introduced to the fiancé of a good friend of mine. My wife Brandee and I had made plans to have dinner and watch the hockey game together, the four of us and the four kids. He has two boys that are the same age as our two girls, two and three.
In the midst of calming down various territorial battles over who got to play with Handy Manny’s tool set, or the toy guitar, or who would be going to bed next, I was introduced to a really cool guy with a complete genuineness that I haven’t seen very often in my lifetime.
He’d say things that would cause me to think deep – right to the very core of my beliefs. And the really cool thing was feeling like he spoke this way not looking for recognition or the look of amazement that was probably blatantly evident on my face, but because he cared to know. Oh, how we need that! When was the last time you were asked, “so, how did you meet Jesus?” and feel like the asker was interested in your answer, rather than telling their own story? Or when have you last heard someone say the words, “bless you,” and feel like they really did believe for God’s blessing over your life?
What’s more, he was well-spoken and plain-spoken at the same time! So many times when interacting with other Christians, we shift into an entirely different dialect. Often, once we realize we are conversing with another believer, our conversation shifts and begins to sound like this:
“So, how did you come to know the Lord?”
“Well, I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart at a young age, but I turned away for a time as a teenager…”
“How long were you backslidden?”
“After spending a few years ‘in the world’ I rededicated my life to God as a young adult.”
And it can even go further, to the point where it seems like we are in a competition, whoever can use the most obscure words or phrases, or the highest number of syllables per statement wins! Once the conversation heads that direction, it may begin to sound something like this:
“How was it that you came to the realization that you had ‘fallen away from God’?
“I was confronted by a ‘brother in the Lord’ and helped me see that the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ was no longer evident in my life. He suggested that I start ‘doing my devotions’ again, and ‘fixing my eyes on Jesus’, and it was after that that I ‘gave my heart back to God.’ From that point on, I now ‘crucify the old man, and die daily.’
What language are you speaking?
The crazy thing about all this, is that the subjects are real, the words spoken are truth, and all in all it is a positive conversation. So why is that we digress into what sounds like an entirely different language when it comes to the things of God? (I just did it right there)
Our language is already different enough from the language of the world (hopefully), to the point where we generally keep it free of offensive words or slanderous words and strive to speak blessing rather than cursing. So, already being in the world and not acting in the same way (of the world) why do we unintentionally distance ourselves even further from the culture?
I am reminded of what happens when we visit countries that speak a language other than English.
Despite our best attempts to communicate, once we sense that we aren’t being understood, we usually resort to speaking louder and louder, in english, hoping to barrel right through the language barrier. Pairing that with some elaborate charade movements, arms flailing wildly, doesn’t lead to successful communication.
For communication to be successful, you must have two things: a speaker and a listener. And both parties must understand something about the other. The person speaking must understand his audience, and the person(s) listening must understand what is being spoken.
Sometimes, communication is so much more than words. When our friend introduced us for the first time to her fiancé, he hugged both Brandee and I and spoke a blessing over us, our lives and our home. From his first words & actions towards us, I immediately felt as though his faith was fully integrated with his life. The words of blessing sounded so much more real than a memorized phrase, like each time they were spoken, they were meant. He found a way to speak about God and our faith in a way that was refreshing and real, without causing me to look into my lexicon for the meaning to the many words & phrases of Christianese.
Like students who are asked to write “in your own words…” their thoughts on a particular subject in school, we should learn to take the principles of the bible and paraphrase them in our own words. When we speak the truth in plain language, it is not only to the benefit of the people we talk to, but it also allows God’s word to become real in our own lives.