By Pastor Chris Surber
My life is all about ideas and communicating those ideas. Words. I make my living crafting words from ideas in an effort to build bridges of communication with other users of words. That is my life. While it may be obvious for a preacher, it is no less true of us all.
As spiritual beings seeking enlightenment and hoping to share the same with the world around us, we must learn to use words in enlightened ways. I am convinced that the divine creator gave us words as instruments of light and life. According to the Genesis account, God spoke the universe into being. According to that same account, He imbued us with His creative power. That is what the “Imago Dei” is. We are reflections of God’s image, His likeness; we possess attributes consistent with His.
We have the capacity to live as creative, wondrous beings in this world and for eternity if we would only learn God’s language and speak it. In all of my experience using and seeking expertise with words, nothing has ever brought the importance of words home to my heart like learning another language. In 2013, my wife dragged me to Haiti with her. My heart instantly broke for Haiti, as hers had just a few months earlier, and I needed to speak their language.
I found an English to Haitian Creole dictionary and a Creole Bible and went to work right away. My first few times in Haiti I butchered the language! I marred beautiful Haitian proverbs with my limited skills. I tortured Haitian ears with my clunky attempts and stubborn insistence to speak without a translator. I love these people and had to be able to communicate my love and respect to them. It took me a while but after a year living entirely immersed in their language and culture, I deliver sermons in Haiti in Haitian Creole that God can use!
The path of enlightenment is paved not in perfection. It is paved in persistence and perseverance. The with-God life is seldom easy and always demands discipline. If we want to actuate the Imago Dei, the Image of God in us, and really put it on display in the world around us, we must learn to speak God’s language. That is what James 1:19 means in terms of practical application. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”(NLT)
God’s language is love. “The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion.”(Numbers 14:18a NLT) We communicate constantly with words. Among the surest signs of spiritual enlightenment is the light of live-giving words. Develop discipline with words. Speak God’s language!
Dr. Chris Surber is Senior Minister at Mt. Hope Congregational Church in Livonia, MI. He is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. Visit him online at www.chrissurber.com