Tuesday, March 03, 2009

a way with words

I talked with a friend today about a family member who had been killed and she told me the body was going to be "exposed" tonight at the funeral home. Her English is very good, but there are some words that don't necessarily translate easily. And while many people might call it a "wake" or a "viewing" I remember an older brother who used to say "they'll have him/her out" tomorrow night. From the context it's not too difficult to figure out what they mean, but it is interesting. Not all cultures say things the same way.

In the spiritual realm it is no different. As Christians we talk about "sound" churches or "liberal" churches. We may even use words like propitiation, atonement, etc. when talking with friends who are not "literate" in the Bible. We know and understand very well what these words mean, but they don't. When it comes to the Bible some people know very little, so when they hear such words they just turn you off. So, you think you've enlightened them and they haven't heard a thing you said.

Words are important--don't misunderstand me, but sometimes we don't help our listeners understand by our choice of words. When we moved to KY and I first heard the phrase "I don't care a bit for you to come over" the context seemed to say "come on over" but the words seemed, at least to me, to say "don't come". After several clarifications I finally understood, but I can be persistent when I need to be. Your non-Christian friends may not be nearly so persistent in trying to understand.

So as one well-respected brother said years ago, "Never underestimate the ignorance of your audience"--don't assume they know everything that you do. More than likely they don't, so think about your choice of words and make sure they are understanding you, because if they don't understand it doesn't matter how eloquent your teaching/preaching is, you're just wasting your time and theirs.


No comments: