I started re-reading the Gospel of John last Sunday. I had read most of it last year with my small group in our home on Monday nights. I have found, though, that each time I read a passage of Scripture, I see something new, something different. One of my Bible teachers over the years made me memorize Hebrews 4:12, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edge sword.” I believe it.
So, I have been fumbling through John, again, with the disciples, shaking my head and thinking out loud, “what is he talking about!” But today, the living and active word clarified itself for me. In Chapter 8, Jesus is having a discussion with the Jews who believed in Him. They are having trouble understanding Him. (I know, right!) He’s telling them they are slaves and that they need to be ‘set free’. They don’t get it, they were never slaves! Then he explains that they don’t understand because they have a different father — Satan, the father of lies. (Oh, no he didn’t!) He says that Satan’s native language is lying!! And remember, Jesus is full of grace and truth — his native language is the truth of God, full of grace!
We don’t understand Jesus because we are learning His language. Because I was born in sin, my native language is sin. Since my baptism as an infant, I have been trying to acquire the language of Christ, sometimes more fervently than others, but let’s be honest, I really like to speak my native language the most.
I saw this in my international students in St. Louis. They had come to the United States to study in English to prepare for American universities. We had a rule that while they were at school, they could speak ‘English only’. However, it was very common to see Chinese students walking down the hall together, obviously speaking Mandarin. It was more comfortable, more accessible, more familiar. It felt like home. Speaking in English, for them, was often hard work. It was foreign, new, and hard to understand. I can’t count how many times I told students from China, Korea, or Vietnam, “the more you use it, the easier it will get.”
Sometimes I am such a slow learner, I amaze myself.
I am just like my students. I like to speak my native language. It just rolls off the tongue. Sure, a few people get hurt by the sharpness of my words, but man they feel good to say. And, really, they aren’t lies. I told you, I tell the truth…at least my version of the truth. And, to be honest, reading the Bible is difficult. I often don’t understand what Jesus is trying to say. He speaks in parables and metaphors. I know, I know, I’m an English teacher, I should love that stuff. But, I don’t get it all the time.
“The more you use it, the easier it will get.” Sigh.
Last Sunday I heard the challenge to spend more time in God’s truth, to become more familiar with his grace. I am going to stick with it. “The more I use it, the easier it will get.” I really do want to be fluent in truth and grace.