January 4; Gibberish

Genesis 10-11:26; I Chronicles 1:5-7,17-27

When my mom stepped into her first grade classroom on the first day of school, she couldn’t speak English. Her German-born parents spoke only German in their home. Her siblings were her best friends. I’m sure she picked up some English words from the neighborhood and church. But she was a German-speaking six-year-old in an English speaking school.

I have a friend who was telling several of us about her granddaughter’s Spanish immersion school. Grandma was extolling the virtues of such a progressive education. Her granddaughter was coloring at the kitchen table. So to make her point, Grandma asked the six-year-old, “Sara Beth, do you understand your teacher?” Sara Beth simply answered, “No.”

The language barrier is real.

I think about Mom when I read the Tower of Babel account in Genesis. How confusing it must have been to be that little girl plopped in a situation where no one speaks or even thinks in the same language you do, and then expect you to follow directions. How confusing it must have been for those building the tower to be talking to their co-worker one minute, then all of a sudden realize you have no idea what he is saying. Some people seem to understand. But you have no clue what that gibberish is supposed to mean.

I’m convinced that sometimes our communication breaks down for the same reason when we are sharing the Gospel. Those of us who know Jesus speak a different language than those who don’t. We understand and speak the language of the Holy Spirit.

We understand what sin is, what repentance involves. We get that Satan is a created being, a real fallen angel, and hell is a reality. We take for granted that everybody knows that Jesus died on a cross to pay for sin, and that Jesus is part of the Trinity which is God. We get that this world is not all there is.

What we forget is that the majority of the world – maybe the majority of the people in your world – have no idea what we are saying when we share any of that. It sounds like gibberish to them.

My Mom slowly learned to speak English. She learned the basic words first, then was able to put together sentences, and understand simple instructions from her teacher. Before long the was having conversations in English, then it dawned on her she was actually thinking and dreaming in English. She got it!

If you are sharing Jesus with someone and find yourself frustrated because you can’t understand why they don’t get it, remember they don’t understand the language. It might take time, repetition, patience. But don’t give up. To them, it may sound like gibberish at first, but once they get it, it will change their lives. Before long they will be speaking, thinking, and understanding the language of the Spirit.

It just occurred to me that after Mom learned English, she stopped speaking German. (being anything German was not a popular thing here in the States during the 1940’s) Eventually she even lost her ability to speak German. (The old passed away, all things became new; from 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Not only that, Mom taught her siblings how to speak English. She helped her mother learn to speak English. She shared with them what she finally understood for herself. Isn’t that what often happens when someone finally understands what Jesus did for them, and accepts His forgiveness? They get it. And they share it!

That’s my prayer for all of us. May we never grow tired of sharing Jesus with that one who is slow to understand. And may we be so immersed in the language of the Holy Spirit, that we recognize the world’s language is gibberish to us.

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