Living in Brasil and trying to learn the language often put me in interesting scenarios. Once, in a restaurant and needing a napkin, I asked the waiter for a napkin . . . or so I thought. He brought me an umbrella! Another time, thinking I was paying a compliment to a banker about his intelligent and well-behaved daughter, I ended up calling his daughter a prostitute and being thrown out of his house!
An American visitor to our home in Brasil brought what she thought would be a treat for my kids. One evening she called the kids in for a mug of hot coco. My kids looked at her like she was out of her mind, looked at me as to what they were supposed to do and my oldest (6 years old at the time) asked me 1) was it really hot coco and 2) did they really have to drink it? In Portuguese, “coco” is the big “number 2,” you know, poo-poo.
I overheard someone explaining Christianity to a non-church goer the other day. Big words like “sanctification,” “propitiation,” and “justification” were being used. Common words like “testimony,” “witness.” and “born again” were utilized in ways that were absolutely incomprehensible to the non-church goer.
That got me to thinking.
Why do we do that?
Why can’t we simply explain our faith in a straight forward manner, without resorting to “religious” words? Why do we need to use a secret language that only the initiated can understand? Do we really think we are helping our intended audience?
I see this daily in my office. I could use all the big words, the special words, to describe a person’s condition, what it means and what they should do. They may be impressed with my vocabulary and knowledge, but what has it done to help them. Many physicians are accused of arrogance and aloofness because of the vocabulary they use to distance themselves from their patients. Why? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply tell someone what is going on in plain English? I know that compliance with instructions would be greater and the patient would feel more confident.
I have people, patients, swearing that I hung the moon. Why? Because I talk to them where they are and in words they can understand.
Why can’t we talk about our faith in the same way? We’re told to always be ready to explain our faith to a non-believer and to speak simply (“let your ‘yes’ be yes”). You turn on the tv and see the weird “Christians” putting on a freak show; you hear preachers adding extra vowels to the end of words (“in the name-ah of Jesus-ah be healed-uh”) and talking like they’re mad at you; you find that your friend the Christian is incapable of telling you why they follow this Jesus fellow without using words that don’t make sense. Is this stupid, or what?!
Guess what would happen if we Jesus followers decided to simply tell others who ask what really happened to us . . . or could it be that many of us have never really had anything to happen to us? Could it be that we need to re-examine what we call our faith? The stakes might be higher than you think!
A cup of hot coco, anyone?