Sunday, July 12, 2015

Speaking in Other Tongues

I am fascinated with languages. Here in South Africa, where there are 11 official languages, almost everyone is fluent in two or three languages, with some working knowledge of still others. Almost all conversations are sprinkled with some words from one tongue and some words from another, and people flow smoothly between languages without even realizing it.

Recently, a couple of incidents amused me with their complexity! The first was at our Moms In Prayer International conference. One of my friends who is from Lesotho and is fluent in Sotho as well as English and Swati was testifying to a group of women from many different language groups. She asked our other friend, who is from Zimbabwe, and fluent in Shona, English, and Swati, to translate for her. Neither woman was speaking in her native tongue; Matshepo spoke in Swati while Vimbai translated into English. Brilliant!

The second incident happened when we were in Zimbabwe for the first time. I was thoroughly enjoying the company of a young woman named Gratitude who was working at our hotel. She was teaching me some basic words and phrases in her native tongue, Shona. Gratitude also spoke fluent English. Then she discovered that I know some Spanish. Apparently she is also trying to learn Spanish, so I said I'd help her. It turns out that she has a friend from Hungary, who is currently living in Belgium, who speaks fluent Spanish and was teaching her via text messages. So, here I was, an American living in South Africa, visiting Zimbabwe, learning Shona and teaching Spanish to a young girl who was texting her Hungarian friend in Belgium. Convoluted, confusing, cross-cultural delight!

All of this got me thinking about what the Bible has to say about languages. In Genesis we have the story of the tower of Babel, where humans in their pride try to reach the heavens, and God causes them to speak in diverse languages to confound their plans, and then He scatters them throughout the earth.

AND THEN JESUS CHRIST CAME, followed by the Holy Spirit. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:4

It seems to me that the message of Jesus' life-giving death on the cross and His climactic resurrection, is such a paramount, imperative message that God made a way for the language barrier to be bridged, through His all-powerful Spirit.

I yearn for the day when " the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every TONGUE confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:10-11

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