What Are You Saying?

July 30, 2013

“Je voudrais un cafe du lait.”  

That’s what I said to the lady behind the counter at the coffee shop I frequented in Switzerland during my recent two month trip there.  I waited for her to comply with my request, but instead she just looked at me with a slightly amused look on her face.

“Un cafe *au* lait?” (coffee with a special blend of whipped milk)

Dang it!  Her correction stung.  How many times would I have to look like an idiot?  It’s not cafe *du* lait, it’s cafe *au* lait!  I made this mistake a million times already.  It was clear that I was a foreigner.  I think in the lady’s mind, I had just disqualified myself from speaking French.  No matter how many times I spoke French to her after that, she answered me in English.

I had a choice to make.

Would I agree with her assessment?  Would I be bullied into speaking English in my attempt to not sound like an idiot, or would I own the language I was there to learn?  Often when I was out and about in public, I could hear the little remarks that were made in my presence when they thought I couldn’t understand.  It could have been humiliating…

but I was resolved.

I would not be bullied into the box the culture was trying to keep me in.  I was going to keep speaking French no matter what.  This scenario occured time and time again during my trip to Europe. Eventually, something incredible happened!

I was invited to dinner at the home of a couple in Switzerland one evening, and French was being spoken around the table.  Normally, it took a considerable amount of energy for me to concentrate on what was being said, and to think about what I might say to add to the conversation in French.  This night was different, however.  Without effort, I responded to the conversation.  Something was said that stirred something inside of me, and I simply communicated.  It seemed inconsequential until after the conversation was over.

Because of the way the conversation flowed, and because my words required no previous thought, I simply assumed that I reverted back to English to communicate.  It was then that I realized I had actually spoken in French during the conversation!  Amazingly, the words I spoke didn’t seem foreign to me.  For a few moments, French became like my native tongue.  Even though I had spoken French, the words seemed like English to me. My brain naturally understood the words without effort.  This was a first for me.

The point at which a foreign language becomes our native language is glorious!

The same is true in the kingdom of God.  In our Father’s kingdom, there is a new language spoken.  This language is vastly different than the language spoken in mankind’s kingdom, however.  This language is Christ.  This beautiful language sounds radically different from our old tongue.

Anytime a foreigner moves to a new nation, they have a choice to make.  They can focus on what may be familiar to them from their old country, or they can plunge into their new culture and language.  Although most Christians have been taken out of their old country and placed into a new heavenly nation, many have clung to their old religious languages.  If you don’t believe me, take a few minutes to listen to the conversations that most evangelicals are having.


-Economic issues

-Cultural wars

-Social perfectionism

-Religious moralism & law based sin management (calls for ‘radical’ obedience)

-Theological debates (cranial competition)

-Missional and task based focuses (making ‘disciples’)

-Leadership development

-Relational issues (drama)

I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the point.  All these conversations are conversations that the religious world has regularly. We’ve been talking about these issues for so long that to talk about something else is completely foreign.  It feels awkward and strange.

When Paul the apostle told the church community in Corinth that he was determined to know nothing among them except Christ and Him crucified, it was a radical statement.  Can you imagine being with a group of people in which your conversation was simply Christ?

In the past when I associated proclaiming Christ with the proclamation of a few facts about Christ, I read that scripture and wondered how much someone could say about Christ.  What else is there than the fact that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose from the dead?

I have realized, however, that Paul didn’t simply proclaim a few facts about Christ as the religious system does today, He actually presented the actual person of Christ to them!  The apostle John says the same thing to the saints he was writing to in 1 John.  Incredibly, he says that the actual life he had touched with his hands, and the person he had fellowship with, was the Christ he was presenting to them.

There is a HUGE difference between presenting knowledge, and presenting life.

When we begin to live by this life (Christ), we begin to speak this life.  At first, speaking Christ feels strange and forced in the same way that speaking a new language feels strange and forced.  The more we hear this language spoken, and the more we speak what we are hearing, it will become more native to us.  After a while, we will simply open our mouths and this new language of Christ will naturally be spoken.  This language is acceptable in all places, situations, and times.

Some who misunderstand what I am saying might think speaking Christ only will limit the scope of our conversation and language.  In reality, the total opposite is the case.  Hearing and speaking Christ does not narrow our vision to see and speak light (Christ), rather, it opens our perspective to where the light of Christ actually is.  This light shines everywhere, including ‘in’ the darkness (John 1:5).  Don’t be afraid to look there, it’s actually where the light shines most visibly.  The darkness has not been successful at drowning out the light.  The light won.

There will be times when others who still speak the old languages will attempt to make you feel awkward for speaking your new language.  When this occurs, you will have a choice to make.  Will you speak the old language, or the new?

For the new language,

Jamal Jivanjee

Jamal Jivanjee

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27 responses to What Are You Saying?

  1. You nailed it.

  2. Merci beaucoup, you encourage me greatly!

  3. Awesome thought bro! Cool when you think about Jesus being the “logos” of God. Jesus is the language of God. And He’s the native language of the new people group called ekklesia. Man’s systems of world and religion despise this new language. Any other language is acceptable, but not this One. Even the language of “good” finds a comfy home in the world and religion.

    Your description of that pressure is so vivid. What a spot-on picture of how pressured we can feel to hide the new language away when it’s not understood or affirmed. And what a beautiful thing when it is!!!

    May the boldness of our Lord increase in us so we can speak our native language!

  4. Another “religious” manifestation of language is the initiation of God-talk with a person you have no relationship with. Perhaps it is best to engage the other person’s interests (like, “What book are you reading?”). The following story, I think, captures the problem of trying to impart knowledge versus unveiling a Person.

    A ‘Christian’ man was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

    The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?” “Oh, I don’t know,” said the ‘Christian’ man. “How about the Bible, God, Heaven or Hell, or life after death?” as he smiled smugly. “Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics, but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff — grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

    The man, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss the Bible, God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?” And then she went back to reading her book.

  5. Thanks brother! I can relate to listening very intently to a conversation in a foreign tongue, trying to compose a reply that will make sense 🙂

  6. An interesting note in your story is that the lady at the coffee shop knew immediately and instinctively that you were not a native French speaking person. When we are living by Christ’s life and we learn to naturally speak Him as our native language, those who are non-native are easy to spot. Religious immitation stands out.

  7. Great point Jamal. I find myself fighting the impulse to speak politics and cultural issues as if I am speaking of the kingdom. I am not. I think part of the problem is growing up in a so called “Christian” US where we think politics etc. is kingdom speak. After all, isn’t this a Christian nation? Shouldn’t we trying to preserve and advance this nation/kingdom? We forget advancing the kingdom is His purview, not ours.

    If I grew up in a country whose main religion was Hindu or Islam, would my conversation, my focus be different? Absolutely. There the main way for me to communicate the gospel would be by living it. My main focus would be finding a way to communicate the Good News rather than change the culture. As more people come into the kingdom and actually begin to speak the language of the kingdom, which is love, the culture is transformed. And the whole point is not to change the culture, the whole point, as Paul said, is to know Christ.

    BTW, loved what you said about looking in dark places for the light. The darkness is as light to Him and we do find Him there. And we will probably see something marvelous about Him we would see nowhere else..

  8. Jamal,

    I am an expert at not knowing the religion language that many speak. This is a struggle that I have in communicating online. I have read the Bible, but those terms and phases that many use are defined in mind as a total blank, nada, zilch, nothing, as though the person is speaking a foreign language that is unknown to me. The Spirit of Christ has never spoken these words to me.

    For only a few examples:

    Sacraments: A picture of a “sack of mints” and people standing around very solemnly handing out mints from a sack.

    Eucharist: A professional euchre player, of course. The card game is only euchre that I know, so it must be someone who really likes euchre and plays it a lot to be called a Eucharist.

    Apologist: Someone who is always apologizing, telling everyone that they are sorry a lot.

    And the list has grown on and on. See the communication problem here? Not so funny, not really. In my opinion, people speak a meaningless language if they attempt to speak Christ to me via these learned terms. Many people debate each other over many words, but these words, terms and phrases have no defined meaning, so they can debate on and on without anyone winning the debate, year after year, and all their lives.

    It is not speaking Christ, not to me; I do not see, know or hear Life in that language.

    • Jamal Jivanjee July 30, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      Actually Kat, it’s just another form of bondage. It all comes from the same source. I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t have a need to be set free from it.

  9. Thanks for that Jamal, it clarifies what I am experiencing and ties it in with Paul’s revelation. How beautiful that the Spirit is the life of God in me that flows like sunshine as I learn!

  10. I do sincerely believe that the Kingdom dialect is none other than Love, this language can be expressed within the constraints of words, and outside of the constraint of words. Love moves, Love shares, and Love loves to Love. This Love is communicated in various forms, but in them all the message is clear. We are loved by Love Himself, and as we ‘see’ this Love, our hearts are pierced by Love, and from this we Love because we are loved. This Love is much like a prairie grass fire it spreads and consumes, and nothing can withstand it ‘heat’. Love is the language of tomorrow.

  11. Your timing is His timing. It’s perfect & it’s perfectly received. My 2 prayers have been that I might know Him & also that I may see myself as He sees me. The floodgates have opened. My understanding has been increased. The dark can never win because darkness isn’t real…it is just the absence of light! God is moving mightily in the direction of clarity among His children. Light is increasing & His language of Love & Grace is being heard & spoken! He is SO exciting! Thank you Jamal for confirming His word once again.

  12. Great post brother!

  13. Jamal,

    I can relate to your experience, when I first started to speak English. I dared to start speak, even though I was making mistakes ( not that I still don’t make, lol, after so many years), but the thing is, I started to speak English faster than my friend who was studying and waiting, instead of starting to practice what she already knew, for fear of making mistakes.

    Reading this I’m reminded how at Babel, man’s proud building was stopped by the confusion of tongues. And in the day of Pentecost, when Jesus had been glorified and the Holy Spirit came to posses His spiritual building, we were given mastery of tongues, and they are reduced to order, and as result many from different countries can hear the wonderful works of God. The truth is, when we are filled with the Spirit, we will speak with a tongue that people will be able to understand the greatness of Our God. May we be filled afresh every day!

    • Marsela,

      Thanks for sharing. Not only do you speak English well, you speak it beautifully. This is a symbol of the beautiful heavenly language (Christ) that you speak so well. It was truly great to meet you and share the Lord with you. Blessings to you dear sister:)

  14. Thank you Jamal! Yes, it was truly great to meet you and share the Lord face to face. Hope we get to meet again. And thanks to all the precious saints in Nashville for hosting, and the great encouragement we received from you! Love you brother 🙂

  15. LOL Jon!!

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