"Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit." - M. Scott Peck
The first several days at our house have been very interesting attempting to either learn a new language that we've never spoken or wait for God to miraculous teach Roman southern slang English. Either way we have figured out at times there has been a language barrier. I'm thankful for the app that we purchased that translates English to French. We thought we had a pretty good handle on it after that, but then realized that Roman doesn't just speak French, but mixes French with Lingala (his native tongue in the DRC). Each day is a new journey with this language barrier thing, but one that we are blessed to be a part of. Each day is a new day that I'm able to learn a new word and learn that language barriers are not just about words.
As I was thinking about the idea of a language barrier this morning, I realized that it wasn't just present with us and our new son, it was present all around me. What God taught me this morning is that this language barrier has been part of my spiritual journey for a long time and I failed to retain this idea over years of living in a Christian world or very easily never figured out it in the first place. I guess you could say that maybe there was a language barrier in my life and it didn't really involve words at all.
The Spiritual Barrier
From the very first day I decided to follow Jesus, I accepted my new place in a new world with a whole new set of values, principles, ideas, phrases, words, expectations, etc. From the moment I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord of my of life; I placed myself into a world with a language barrier and for years I've never really understood that this barrier was present.
1 Corinthians 2 New Living Translation (NLT)
"When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God."
I wish I had really read this (and understood it) about 16 years ago when I started in the ministry. If I had I would not have been worried about when people told me that my sermons were plain and not deep enough. I guess me and Paul have (at least) that in common. But really, all joking aside, (OK, maybe not joking at all, but I must move on)...
Looking back at episodes in my life I wonder why talking about Jesus had to be complicated. I wish I had learned a long time ago that talking about my faith was just as easy as people watching my life. Looking back I would have made some changes in how I lived and how I made decisions. I'm not saying that I would have made different choices or that all my choices were wrong - they were not. What I'm saying is that I would have been clearer in why I was making certain choices and I would not have been ashamed to explain them to those in the "faith" that found them lacking some spiritual maturity factor that I had obviously "in their opinion" missed.
To be honest, I've been hurt by more people claiming "Christian Maturity" than those who don't share my common bond of believing in Jesus. I've been ashamed at times to say that I'm with them (Mature Christians)... I've been afraid to put my hat in the ring with them. At other times I'm totally disgusted by the ways of the world and the trouble it causes so many. I'm terrified of the potential stumbling the world offers and I'm scared to death that at some point standing next to "Christians" will seem less appealing than standing with the world. I know that my spiritual journey is a unique one, but so is yours. I think we would do each other a big favor and maybe attempt to see the barriers we put up in the name of "Christianity" and "Jesus".
1 Corinthians 2:6-9 NLT
6 Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. 7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”
It's hard for to think about what God has planned for me next. I'm not at all worried about what's coming or what God will give me either via a blessing or a test. What I've realized is that God works on a much bigger scale than me. I have come to understand that God is always working for the good and at times he must work around our stubbornness and lack of understanding (and truthfully, in more times than we would like to admit - He has to work with us in our sin and poor choices). I have realized that all this time, God was working on a plan that involved so much more than just me. This realization has allowed me to see God in a new way. It has allowed me to see past my emotions and realize that my emotions at times cause me to have a SPIRITUAL BARRIER with God's ultimate plan - the sharing of the Gospel and the RESTORATION OF ALL PEOPLE (the building of His Kingdom). The world has a very different language than what I have in Christ. I should probably start speaking the language of Jesus more and the language of "self" less.
There is for sure a barrier that is found in communities of faith and church circles. I guess I'm calling it the barrier to growth and it is a language barrier for sure.
Matters of faith are not barriers. They are however;
limitations you put on your relationships.
- Matthew J Craig
I heard it said this way... "Age is no barrier. It's a limitation you put on your mind" (Jackie Joyner-Kerse) and as I thought about that quote, I thought to myself that there are lots of things we make barriers that shouldn't be barriers at all. Our relationships and our faith in Christ fall into that category. There have been times that I've limited my relationships based on my faith and what I value and what I deem right and proper. I have in ways side stepped God's plan for redemption and restoration when I've put up barriers and limited my relationships based on issues of faith. These barriers are not based on actual words (even though we need to be aware that we use Christian words and their meanings in very different ways than the world does - just saying) but these barriers are based on our faith and how our faith is acted out when it comes to people.
When we place our values and spiritual truths ahead of people; then we cut out the place for God to use us in His plan of reconciliation and restoration. When we allow our Christian words (or lives) to over power the potential for relationships and community, then we have missed out on an opportunity for God to use us in a powerful way. We should not be afraid of people who share different values or have different ways of looking at the world. We should be available to have a conversation that is based first on relationship and not based on words. I'm not saying that our values take a back seat; they just don't drive the bus. God's desire to establish a new heart and a new mind come first and the only way to accomplish this is when I establish a relationship based on the potential for growth and grace. I can speak in the language of love and truth; without speaking in the language of judgement and fear. You won't always like what I say, but at least you will know that it comes from the heart. At least you will know that I'm trying (or at least I will know that I'm trying and I will rest at night knowing that).
Love has no barrier...
A barrier is of ideas, not of things. - Mark Caine
The second way we put up barriers to growth is when we as Christ followers allow our own personal desires and opinions to over power the work of the Spirit and the work of the Church. The Spirit nor the Church (the body of believers) should be used as ways to divide. The Holy Spirit and God's Church are essential to overcoming the language barrier we have with in the world! It's time for God's people to start living like the disciples did and just live an authentic life; not trying to prove we are right, but instead introducing ALL PEOPLE to the love of God and to a real life person -- His name is Jesus. If we will become "mission" minded and not focused on being "right"; then we might just begin to thrive again as a life transforming church and body of believers.
At the end of the day, I have been reminded that in every situation, love has no barriers. It really doesn't matter if we speak the same language. It really doesn't matter if we share the same values. At the end of the day as a Follower of Jesus Christ - all that really matters is how I love you.
Love means that I will not share your opinions. Love means I will not share or agree with your values. Love means that I will not believe what you believe. Love means I will not like your decisions. Love means I will not like your lifestyle; nor will I choose to live mine the same way. Love means I will not vote like you, look like you, speak like you or have the same life as you. Love means that I WILL not let our differences become barriers. Love means that I will do everything I can to keep fear and faith from coming between YOU and THE LOVE OF JESUS. I will do everything in my power to show you just how much GOD LOVES YOU and when our language barrier is gone; then maybe you will see what I see. Until then... it's not on you - it's on me!
I will love you enough to not let you waste your new life in Christ and I will not keep our difference from telling you that it's not OK. I know that this will come as a shock, but I'm totally different than you. I'm living my own life and all I'm trying to do is be like Jesus. Truthfully, that's all He wants from any of us. "Be holy, as I am holy". This will cause us to disagree and potentially be divided, but at the end of the day... LOVE HAS NO BARRIER... Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and Love your neighbor as yourself....always be the church - no matter what it may look like or "sound" like.
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