I used to wonder where that saying came from and yet, for some reason, always understood what it meant. I now believe it was launched from the mouths of theology students who, over the centuries, were translating and understanding the Bible. I am steeped in Greek right now and it is becoming more familiar as I study and engross myself in the language.
In Eat, Pray, Love, Liz takes herself first to Italy and her focus is to learn Italian. At first she stiltedly converses in it, but finds her comfort zone and then finds beauty in the language itself. She also finds herself, as she savours food, all while speaking the native tongue and she built friendships.
Most recently I had a wonderful conversation with a member of my congregation that regaled of her attempts to order breakfast, in French, while visiting in Quebec. Through her sputters they did eat, only to find the server conversing in English at the next table. When Kay approached the server she laughed and said she needs to practice her English so she was offering the chance for Kay to practice her French.
What is language? Language is nothing more than a series of sounds and symbols through which we communicate. Once a person understands the keys, communication is then possible. There are many forms of language. The spoken word is only one. I know as I study Greek, should I go to Greece today, I would be hard pressed to converse on the street because I am learning Classical or Biblical Greek, solely for the purpose of New Testament translation.
That sets me to thinking about all the ways we communicate with each other both verbally, emotionally and spiritually. A hasty word can sting and one look can berate an unruly child, but more importantly how do we communicate the love and forgiveness of Christ in daily life? It is a language all to itself.
I find to speak about God can bring fear and stares on the street at times. We live in such suspicious times. Times where science has made us think we can find all the answers through experiments. God-talk is a language many do not want to learn. To step up on to one's soap box and lament the evils of society or to quote scripture and verse to support homophobia lacks greatly the love and forgiveness of God through the risen Christ. So what is the language of love? The language of God's Love? The language of our love for God? The language to communicate life in the resurrection and hope in the birth of Jesus?
The language of God is greatest in action and teaching. As we journey on our own path we are challenged by life and we pray for God's love and care and are aware Jesus is walking beside us. Times can be tough and experiences overwhelming, but as Christians we trust and lean on our faith. When a person does not speak the language, the language of faith (like being a room with a French speaking waiter) it is hard work for them to understand unless they see how much it can help them. They need to learn the language in order to communicate the love of God.
So take the time to teach the language through action and deed. Be kind, love your neighbour, be thoughtful and inscribe the language of love on other people's hearts. I assure you through a hand shake, a smile and a listening ear others will understand the language and symbols of God through your teaching. Before you know it they will be speaking it fluently and teaching others as well.
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