“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.” –Acts 2:5-6
Since the time of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) people all over the globe have spoken different languages. Living in the Netherlands, our family experienced the confusion God promised first hand. People where we lived spoke Dutch. Ten minutes away in one direction, they spoke German. Twenty minutes in the other, they spoke French. And when we travelled, we encountered other languages as well. By the time we left Europe, I could order French fries from McDonald’s in six languages. But I’m only fluent in one, English–and the British people I’ve met sometimes question even that.
Dutch people, however, take great pride in their ability to speak several languages. Many can speak English, French, German, and others–even American! Since I knew very little Dutch, I usually depended on them to help me communicate. And they seemed to like it that way. “We understand your English better than your Dutch,” they’d proudly say. They were happy to use their knowledge to help out wherever mine lacked.
Beyond Europe is a whole big world full of many languages–some yet to be discovered. Friends of ours once completed a year of language training in Brazil, learning Portuguese in order to minister to the people of Mozambique. You’ve probably heard missionaries from exotic countries share bits of language from the places they’ve been. And even in America, I sometimes have to listen closely to understand the dialects of friends from Maine, Alabama, or New Jersey! When God promised confusion, He delivered.
But God is never confused. He understands every language, every dialect, every bit of slang, and even words that don’t transcend the generation gap. (I’m pretty sure He even speaks text.) And just as He helped the disciples communicate with the crowd “from every nation under heaven,” He can help us communicate His love wherever we go. We may have to study, use sign language, or ask a lot of questions, but Christian love goes a long way toward building understanding.
Will you have fritessaus with your fries?
All-Knowing Lord, help me to communicate with people around me today. Whether they speak another language or simply need to know I understand how they are feeling and what’s going on in their lives, remove the confusion. Replace it with love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.