Have you ever thought about literally speaking the same language as an act of love? Probably not because love doesn’t come from language, yet it is an avenue. Rather, what I can gather from 1 Corinthians 13 is if I have the language ever so perfectly and speak like a local, and have not the love that grips the heart, I am nothing.
Acquiring language can be difficult and these past few weeks, I’ve been able to put in perspective that learning Arabic requires that I participate by observing in ways I haven’t done before. To do more than see the world, but hear it. To listen for sounds which are not often expressed in western society. To break through glass ceilings by recognizing and understanding cultural associations in context which give a lot of meaning to words. With this challenge before me, it brings comfort in understanding language learning is a marathon, not a sprint.
Processing learning methods and understanding new perspectives of sharing the Gospel takes time, much longer than the six weeks I’ve just been part of; although, I am so thankful it doesn’t happen so quickly because I can now look through my tool belt, rather than fumble with a lucky guess. I can lay my tools before me and evaluate how old some are, if they need to be replaced or sharpened. Should I take all my tools with me overseas? Leave some here to make room for new ones? Can I combine tools into one or break some apart? Changing a core part of myself to fit in a new cultural context takes time and discernment. I am so grateful for the time the Lord has given me to process before heading overseas.
I’ve recently spoken to a worker whom has spent 17 years in the Middle East and the advice he shared I think will help me greatly in disconcerting times. In a collectivistic culture, people around me will know what I think of them before I do, and they will remember it. A culmination of an idea is what I become. If I don’t love them they will know and that’s who I will be. In a look, an act, a remark. So how do I ensure some one knows I am there to love them despite how different we may be? Wake up everyday knowing we are made in the image of God and that Christ loves them just as much as He loves you. By carrying this wherever you go, the community will be the first to know if you have truly died to self.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Paul wrote that love endures forever. In morally corrupt Corinth, love had become a mixed up term with little meaning. Today, people are still confused about love. Love is the greatest of all human qualities and is an attribute of God himself (1 John 4:8). Love involves unselfish service to others. Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message; hope is the attitude and focus; love is action. When faith and hope are in line, you are free to love completely because you understand how God loves.
I hope my faith fully expresses itself in fully loving others.
Yours in Christ.
P.S. Please pray over my finances. I am so close to being fully funded and hope to maintain consistent support over the next two years. Pray for my language learning and my transition into this new culture; that from the start, I could begin learning the language well. Pray that those I will encounter will innately know that I am there to love them the way God loves them.