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.
-Religious moralism & law based sin management (calls for ‘radical’ obedience)
-Theological debates (cranial competition)
-Missional and task based focuses (making ‘disciples’)
-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,