The other night, my husband was trying to explain where something was on the campus that he works at. We both are alumni and I used to work there as well. So, I know the general layout of things. But this was a new meeting hall he was trying to tell me about, so I wasn’t exactly positive where it was. I decided that instead of trying to figure out what he was talking about, we should just draw a map. So, I busted out my pen and paper and drew the aerial view of the building from my memory. He started laughing and exclaiming, “No, Emily! That’s not even what it looks like!” I said, “David, yes it is. I used to work in this building. You’re just not looking at it right.” So, he proceeded to draw his own map. His looked obviously different than mine. Yet, it was fairly close. I just felt like he was looking at my map from the wrong angle. He felt like mine was totally off. We finally compromised by comparing the two maps, noting that they were not drawn precisely to scale, and talking through the general layout to determine what it was that he was trying to communicate. I started laughing because we were speaking the same language, but not understanding each other. Do you know how frustrating that is? Sometimes, I feel like we should just pop in a few words from other languages like Spanish, French, or heck- even Chinese if it helps so that maybe it will help clarify in communication. But that would only work if we both spoke those languages as well. Do you know what we need in cases like this? A source to go back to in order to define the words that we are communicating. Something like a dictionary that can be a go to reference when we are in search of a better word or understanding for a word with which we may not be familiar.
Different things stand out to different people. God has made us all unique like that. I think that’s why we are able to function as a world. Some people are gifted in teaching. Some people are gifted in making medical breakthroughs. Some people are gifted in serving others by working at the grocery store. Some people are gifted at flying airplanes full of people or supplies to distant lands. Some people are gifted at parenting. Some people are gifted in caring for the elderly. Some people are gifted at fixing things. Some people are gifted at building things. Some people are gifted in writing. Some people are gifted in arts. Some people are gifted in math. (Lord knows, that’s not me!) When flipping through the dictionary, certain vocabulary is more prevalent and understood in dialogue based on what person is speaking.
This past Sunday, in our Life Group at church, we had an interesting experience. We were examining a certain passage of Scripture and challenged to note what was good, better, and best. Furthermore, we were challenged to look at what it actually said. As we discussed the passage, it got kind of heated because it was a very sensitive subject for many people. Many people shared real life experiences regarding the subject and perhaps even got their feathers a little ruffled. But our Life Group leader kept steering us back to list what the Bible actually said. As I’ve reflected upon the cacophony of perspectives in that class discussion, I’m reminded of two things: our unique places in the Body of Christ and the centrality of God’s Word.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ… The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12 & 21-26)
Though the conversation in that class time felt frustrating in the moment, looking back on it, I see so much beauty in the body of Christ that was held in that room. There were broken people who were vocalizing the pain that they had experienced. There were broken people who were internally about to combust because of painful memories that were flooding back. There were counselors who looked at the situations objectively through a Biblical vantage point. There were people so stunned that all they could do was observe and learn. Each perspective had a place. Each perspective was equally valuable.
Like my discussion with David about where the meeting room was and trying to figure it out with our maps, though, we all needed a point of reference to refer to in order to make sense of all the dialogue. We had to examine what was actually said. Through all of our vantage points, we had to take each of our personal experiences and opinions and filter them centrally. We needed a dictionary. We needed the Word of God as our reference point.
What I didn’t tell you about David’s and my map discussion was that the way we ultimately worked through our differing view points was by pulling up the satellite view of the building on google maps. We tilted our heads a little and pointed to where we both were missing the mark on our maps and finally were able to come to an understanding for how to get to the destination we had been talking about.
That’s what we have to do in life as a member of the body of Christ and a visitor to this planet called Earth. We have to be willing to lay down our own maps and misunderstood word choices and pick up the only road map that will lead us to a perfect translation with understanding.
Our perspectives are all important. But what’s more important is understanding how they fit in with what God’s Word says. Our words are fallible. David and I proved that this week by our map misunderstanding. We proved that in Life Group this week too when frustrations built up based on different interpretations. But God’s word is not fallible. It’s perfect. We get the opportunity to have our own words and interpretations translated through encouragement from other believers but mostly from rightly dividing the Word of truth. How do we do that? By examining what it actually says.
“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:14-15 NKJV)
The next time you feel like Jackie Chan in Rush Hour when he said, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?!” be encouraged. The perspective of your mouth matters. But there is a translation tool that you and your audience can use for better understanding: the Word of God. It won’t let you down. Trust the translator.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6 ESV)