Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ice Cream Anyone?

The other day a friend of mine got pulled into a bit of a disagreement that ended with the statement, “If you don’t know Hebrew or Greek then you really don’t know what the Bible says.”

In some ways this is an absolutely correct statement. Knowing the Bible in all the glory of the Hebrew and Greek is one of the most incredible things a believer can ever experience. I tell people it is like growing up with a thirteen inch black and white television and then being taken to the IMAX.

In other ways, the argument is amusing beyond belief. It is the logical equivalent of shooting yourself head so the other side doesn’t get the satisfaction, because typically they don’t know Hebrew or Greek either. The only reason to throw the idea out there is to make the typical Christian flinch. It sows a seed of doubt in the believer’s minds that grows into the thought – “I am not qualified to share my faith because I don’t know Hebrew or Greek.”

Since the criteria of knowing the languages has now been set as the only basis for winning the argument the Christian shuts up. The opposing side continues to rattle, and the Christian feels like he/she is a failure before God and man.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind in situations like this:

1. We weren’t called to engage and win every argument about our faith. God is a big God. He can take care of himself. We were called to love, and Paul warned us about foolish debates.
There will be times when we need to be ready to share, but save your breath for people who are really looking for answers. Too often we waste it on people looking for a fight, so don’t engage. Keep your cool. Smile. Bake them cookies. Take them out for ice cream. It is really hard to be ugly to someone you are actively blessing – and it is harder for them to argue with their mouth full.

2. For your own sanity, you need to know that knowing God does not require an advanced degree in the Bible or ancient languages. The people who translated this book are passionate about God’s word, the accuracy of their work, and communicating the Word as effectively as possible. You can trust their work, and not everyone was called to devote years of their lives learning about dead languages and cultures – there can be more important things to do with your life.

The final thing I keep in the back of my mind is – God won’t believe me if I tell him it was an accident, but you probably don’t need that reminder.

God didn’t write his message in some obscure language to keep his true message a mystery. He had it written in the language of the day, one that everyone would understand at the time it was written. Throughout the years it has been the passion of many people, to the point of death, to maintain this great tradition of our faith – God’s word in your language.

If you are called to address the issue, a decision that needs to be made with great discernment, don’t be hesitant to call on those of us who do know the Greek and Hebrew this is why we studied so hard, to share what we have learned. Remember it is not your job to bring conviction, you are only there to share information and God’s love.

Remember it is too easy to get stuck arguing point and counter-point, and in that scenario there rarely is a winner just a lot of hurt feelings. We need to remember that Bible never said we would overcome the enemy through logical, persuasive arguments. It never even promised victory through knowing Greek and Hebrew. It says the enemy is overcome by the word of our testimony, our story, and our experience with God.

No one can argue what you have experienced. No one can discredit those moments you have been in His presence, and no one can deny a faith that truly defines your life. So when all else fails, stick to what you know – a God who has loved you, continues to love you, and will always love you, even if you don’t know Hebrew or Greek.

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