Sunday, October 25, 2015

WHATSUP?

LANGUAGE IS FOREVER CHANGING. Spend a day at a local high school and you would find it difficult to follow the discussion. If you’re white like me, place yourself in the middle of an Oakland, California high school at lunch time and I surmise you would not even understand a word that is being said, but those indigenous students around you would not even skip a beat in their communication and their comprehension.

I might be quick to judge the native speaker from the inner-city of Oakland and say that their language is incorrect, but a visitor from over-the-pond in England might judge my language as incorrect as well. The key issue is are we able to understand each other? If we are not, are we willing to take the extra effort, to walk a step closer, to ask the clarifying question, so that we can understand?

What is true about crossing cultural and linguistic borders in our midst can always be said about the language we use within the community of people we call the church, or the Body of Christ. Even though we may share the same locale and possibly the same language, we are not always communicating at a level that is truly understood.

As we greet one another with a “How are you?” or a “Whatsup?” or a “Hey!” or a simple “Hello,” we hold ourselves back from the interaction to which we are called within the family of God. I believe we need to change our language, which will also demand that we change our culture.

The Hebrews have long possessed a word within their culture of which many of us are aware. The word is “Shalom.” We often understand it as the word for peace, and we would be right in our definition. But it means much more, its layers are nuanced. Back in my university days, while studying that great ancient language, our professor walked into class and said, “ma-shalomcah?” In his greeting and question he essentially asked us, “How is your peace?” or “How is your well-being?” It is, as you can see, a much deeper greeting demanding a much deeper reflection than if he had simply said, “Hello.”  It goes beyond our greeting of, “How are you?” For it is asking not how we feel, but how is the peace of our soul.

So, next time there is the opportunity to greet someone, take a moment to consider your language and maybe adjust it ever so slightly so that the love of God can enter in.

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