Monday, December 11, 2006

Vocabulary kills.

Let’s face it. Christianity has been around for a while. So it only stands to reason that over the millennia certain ideas and thought structures would be codified into a wonderful little system we like to call…vernacular.

A friend of mine recently asked me if I was “born again.”

“Well, yes,” I said, a little awkwardly.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

Twenty-three years into my faith, one would think that I would have an appropriate response. But how do you answer that simple, important question without unleashing a steady stream of incomprehensible jargon? Depravity? Redeemed? Saved? Grace? Repentance? Sanctification? Holiness? Glory?

Christian Vocabulary.

It is easy for me because I have grown up in it. I’ve gone to schools where my homework was to understand the meaning behind these words. But I find myself ill-equipped when I face a person who has genuine questions about the fundamentals of my faith. My mother tongue is Christianese and I get timid when I have to speak in Layman’s about things of the faith.

The message does not have to be complicated. Christ certainly seemed to pull it off. John and Paul and Luke were able to relate to their audiences, to spell out the meaning of redemption and the price of grace. But now we have this lingo that we have worked so hard to establish, so the meaning should be clear, right?

I am constantly tempted to hide behind the smoke-screen of jargon. I convince myself that having sufficient knowledge of words means I have sufficient knowledge of the truth.

But if I cannot explain to my friend what it means to be born again, then why am I even here?

1 comment:

Katrina said...

Wow, I was just nodding my head through this whole thing! I grew up in the church, too, and it's been a challenge in my grown-up life, as I rub elbows with people who don't have that heritage of "churchiness", to put what I believe into simple-to-understand terms.

I tried last year on my blog (the link is still on my front page, if it helps), and was moderately satisfied with the results. But I still get tongue tied sometimes when I'm face to face with someone who desperately needs what I have. Too afraid of making what is simple overly complicated--or vice versa.

I guess that's where the Spirit comes in. I believe He wings our words and helps them land on the most fertile patches of soil He can find in the heart of the hearer. As Paul said, we really do have to trust God to make the seed grow.

Thanks for your thoughts!