Post 62 / The Next Language
October 27, 2021
Is There a Place for the Gospel in Your Story?
We generally have a pretty monolithic understanding of how God is reconciling the world to Himself. It is the story of the Old Testament. To a large degree it is a Judeo-Christian story. Imbedded in the heart of this story is the story of Jesus and His teachings, death and resurrection. Jesus came in the fullness of times. [Eph 1:10 KJV] That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; [even] in him.
The Jesus story fit perfectly into the story of the Jews and also opened the door to all peoples non Jewish. In fact, that Jesus story fit so perfectly into the Jewish story that we conclude somewhat erroneously that you cannot understand the Gospel without the Jewish story. It is so engrained that some missionaries will not share the Gospel without sharing the entire Old Testament first.
I never completely believed that theory though admit that ideally the gospel is better understood in light of the Jewish story. But I see the Jewish story as simply an illustration of a cosmic God lovingly shaping and preparing all cultures and individuals for the presence of God Himself.
When Jesus stepped outside His primary ministry (which was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel – see Mat 15:24). He did not deal with Gentiles by rehearsing the Jewish story. The brief encounter he had with the Gadarene who was almost certainly a gentile. Instead of rehearsing the Abrahamic, the Exodus, and the law stories- he confronted the demon spirit binding that man. He then sent him to tell his story (not the Jewish story). [Mar 5:18-20 KJV] And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all [men] did marvel.
I believe this set the stage for the feeding of the four thousand later. And then the encounter with the Greeks in the temple. [Jhn 12:20-21 KJV] And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.
True, in the case of the Samaritan woman Jesus and the unnamed woman sparred over the Jewish and Samaritan history. Jesus dismissed both by saying that geographically neither Jerusalem nor Gerizim would be the focus of worship [Jhn 4:21-24 KJV] Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth. Jesus was carving out an unprecedented space for the Gospel, unique to that culture, that eventually led to many converts after Pentecost and of course many faithful followers before then.
I believe that if you will look at your own story you will find that God very specifically shaped your story and created a Gospel shaped place. In my own story I can now see how that even before I was born God was preparing a gospel shaped place. Both parents who had left Christian homes and abandoned the faith were converted just before I was born. This left me hugely influenced by mom’s Godly parents that were in the ministry. It gave me a zeal for missions that preceded my personal conversion.
As we go into new villages and languages we are alert to the story we are stepping into. I believe that is what Jesus did and what He would have us do. Every one of these villages have an origin story, also a flood story, and a pretty complete agreement on the ten commandments. When we unload our monolithic Judeo Christian story with no sensitivity to the local history there is a huge possibility that there will be a total disconnect or worse that it will be cast with the Catholic intrusion.
What is in the daily story today is an anxiety over the loss of the language and the stress of economics in a subsistence existence and the vagaries of the weather that even challenge the subsistence which fails if the corn and beans do not produce. In that scenario the stress of family and community relationships are fairly normal with children that mimic the prodigal son and vengeance against neighbors and communities keeps cycling back and forth. Alcohol and more recently drug abuse find ready victims in this kind of environment.
The good news is that the Jesus story fits all of these contexts. The testimonies and scripts of deliverance from alcoholism and vengeance are never challenged. Our current language helper for Zapoteco: Tavehua told stories of generations of family members that were run out because of well meaning efforts to introduce change for economic gain. The Good News reveals a Jesus that actually died unjustly in order to erase the need for vengeance.
We recently took a word list in a village that only still had a couple of speakers. That was strange because the street signs in the village were in the language- something I had never seen since driving the roads in Wales. We could find no believers nor willing language helpers and had to conclude that the story of that language was closed. Any future Gospel entry will be in a space that is not shaped by their own language.
The next village was similar but on a whim after getting a word list we made another contact at a local store and eating place and found a precious couple of new believers. When they heard that Celelino that gave us the word list had denied there were any believers, Estanislao spontaneously broke into tears. Turns out that two of Celelino’s sons were recently converted and his hard heart would not let him even admit it. We had walked into an ongoing work of God in this community that predated the Spanish invasion. We have asked Estanislao to let us know when he is going to be baptized so we can attend. We have also asked Estanislao to consider preparing the story of the village and how God broke into his life and changed his heart. Pray that God will give him poignant words that can speak both in Spanish and in Mixteco: Soyaltepec and accelerate the Gospel in that place.
Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director
Global Recordings Network USA
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