Tuesday, December 14

The Art of Communication

The Lord said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." --Exodus 4:11-12

Salvation. Justification. Redemption. These words, without context can take on just as many meanings as the number of individuals who hear or read them. Redemption could mean cashing in aluminum cans. Justification could mean validation of certain feelings or actions. Salvation? Salvation could be the name of a band for all I know! To most Christians, these three words are related and they are all part of the "Christianese" vocabulary we use to describe what it is we believe and why.

One of the most difficult parts of explaining and sharing our faith with people who have limited or nonexistent church background is the language barrier. How can we communicate what we know to be true and real without alienating the people we want to reach the most? Evangelizing, witnessing, proselytizing, or whatever you prefer to call it, must involve prayer, a willing heart, and most importantly, a child's vocabulary.

After praying for God to open up an opportunity for us to share our faith we need to be willing to actually follow through and do so. When those opportunities arise, our best bet is to keep it simple. Those of us who have been in the church for a long time can easily settle into vocabulary that is "churchy" in nature. We need to be aware that not everyone understands the same concepts we do.

Think of it like this. Suppose a physicist was trying to explain gravity to a child. Any physicist is well-versed in Newton's laws and knows that objects fall to the earth because the force of gravity between that object and earth will cause the object to accelerate toward the center of earth at a rate of 9.8 meters per second squared. The truth of that statement is quite complex and the information is too complicated. A more basic description is to say "what goes up must come down." The truth of Newton's law is still present, and the concept is much easier to grasp that way. The simplified version is just as true as the scientific one, but now a child can understand it.

Similarly, when sharing the gospel, we should stick to God's truth, but do so in a simple way. The sentence "Jesus loves you" is a simplified version of the reality of the relationship behind the the words justification, redemption, and salvation. Jesus loves you. It's a simple version, but it is in my opinion one of the best places to begin.

In all of our conversations with others about our faith, we need to remember to glorify God both in how we explain him and how we treat the other person. Our responsibility is to plant the necessary seeds in the other person's heart. God is the one who is responsible for taking care of those seeds once they are planted. We cannot force someone to hear us, but if we can communication effectively and at least get them to listen, then that's a start.



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