“What are we doing tomorrow?” asked the Korean ESL student on our school’s whirlwind trip of NYC.
“Well, first on the list is touring the United Nations,” I replied.
“What’s so important about the United Nations? I’ve never heard of it.” she countered. I explained a bit, but truthfully was surprised, since the South Koreans are known to have one of the best educational systems of the world. I’ll deal more with it tomorrow, I thought.
On our next day’s walk from the hotel to the United Nations, I was careful to refer to United Nations this and United Nations that, because acronyms are tough for foreign students. Think of FBI, UN, NASA, IRS, NSA, and the dubious DUI, not to mention a host of others. I explained the history and importance of this organization to the two Korean nationals at my side. They both had blank stares, much like the day before. Then I slipped up and referred to it as “the UN”.
“The UN? We’re going to the UN?!?” the one shouted with true excitement.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” the other exclaimed, “My folks won’t believe it when I tell them I went to the UN! We’ve got to take pictures!”
This humorous incident reminds me of the trouble with words. Sometimes when we think we’re communicating we are not. As a word “sin” doesn’t communicate much any more. But say “brokenness” and we can all relate to the breakdown that comes in human relationships.
It’s the same way with “repent.” Nowadays we merely repent of the doughnuts or similar indulgence that we ate the day before. But talk of “making amends” and so much more depth is added than merely “apologizing.” Isn’t making amends at the heart of repentance?
Could it be that in our interacting with others, our Christian message appears out of touch because we expect others to know our vocabulary?
Could it be that in our interacting with others, our Christian message appears out of touch because we expect others to know our vocabulary? How can we make it more relevant?
Recently I had opportunity to speak to the reason I keep a seventh-day Sabbath. My companion gave obvious cues that he wasn’t up for a Bible study on the topic. Rather than be in his face about it, I merely directed the conversation so I could ask, “What makes for a truly winsome woman? It’s more than just externals, right? Doesn’t it takes some inner beauty?”
I paused, then continued, “Well, I try to cultivate that inner beauty... and keeping a seventh-day Sabbath is part of how I do it.” Then I ducked out of the conversation.
Not the most eloquent of Bible studies, but I felt something that piqued interest was more judicious than words that overwhelmed and/or offended.
Shakespeare’ s Juliet exclaimed, “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”
May our witness be as welcoming as a rose, and our words as winning as Shakespeare’s. There’s a hurting world out there. Our job is not to convince them, merely to point the way. God can do the rest.