Can you imagine Jesus Christ hyphenating every sentence with a string of the above?
Take for example his astounding John 3:16 good news declaration. It’s probably the most famous, well known and oft-repeated Bible scripture. It blew its first recipient away!
But what if Jesus had rambled off those dramatic words as… ‘Ah, er, God, um, so, ah, loved the ah, world that ah, he, ah, know what I mean, gave, er, his only, ah, Son that, er, whoever, ah, know what I mean, ah, believes in him, um, should not, er, perish, know what I mean, but have, ah, eternal life, know what I mean.’
The real depth of those amazing precious words would have been totally meaningless and wasted on their hearer, Nicodemus, an educated ‘doctor’ (meaning a highly important teacher and ruler in Israel).
Jesus was a decidedly respected, deeply regarded plain-talking speaker among his people, educated or otherwise. He never repeatedly ‘umed’ or ‘ahed’ – as so many speakers do today, even on TV, interrupting themselves and disconcerting listeners.
Nor did he repeatedly throw in a plethora of unanswerable, unintelligent ‘Know what I mean?-isms’ when he spoke – even in times of questioning, challenges to his character, teachings and ministry, danger or when on trial for his life.
Jesus Christ always spoke so clearly that both the learned and the religiously untrained ‘ordinary’ folk were astounded at his speech (Matthew 7:28; Mark 6:2; Luke 4:32). Even the temple police, having failed to arrest him, returned remarking, ‘Have you heard the way he talks? We’ve never heard anyone speak like this man’ (John 7:46).
Okay, novice preachers can be forgiven in their nervousness for sometimes slipping in too many an ‘Ah’, ‘Er’, ‘Um’ and ‘Know what I mean?’ (Something, incidentally, that hearers never get a chance to respond to with a ‘No, not until you tell me!’).
But experienced speakers who, like Jesus, desire to speak clearly and directly to their hearers, making every word and sentence flow and count, purposefully steer away from such off-putting mannerisms.
Now this is not a having a go at certain speakers who should know better. Come on! But a reminder that we live in days when so many people living – even drowning – in problems are looking for clear flowing words of blessing, direction and help that they can understand and follow .
The media continues to report distress across the world… floods, earthquakes and incidents labelled ‘rebellion’ in major cities in Arab countries. The latter are in places where Muslim people live, believing that their faith is the way to be blessed. Yet there is much heartache there too.
Conversely, western, ‘Christian’ nations, believing they have a better lifestyle, also have many problems. Each day seems to bring further bad news from all over. People everywhere – without a personal secure knowledge of faith and trust in Jesus Christ – are longing for reality. And every Christian can discover opportunities to share God’s love and grace in a clear way that will help the hearer.
Here’s a simple example: The other day a neighbour with a problem called. Neighbour, by the way, according to Jesus, is plesion – someone nearby who needs help – and should be loved at personal cost just as we would love ourselves (Luke 10:27-37).
Yes, our neighbour interrupted what we were doing but that didn’t matter. Yes, being without a car his need to be driven into the city meant adjusting a few things in our busy schedule but that did not matter. He’s a neighbour!
And as we drove off with him sitting in the front he began opening up on a different problem, a sinister issue that was troubling him, his wife and had even crept into their very home. It became church in a car!
‘You’re ministers’ he began. ‘I’m sure you’ll understand this…’ He went on to share about some weird events that were so obviously from Satan’s dark side. That had arisen through certain people speaking seemingly good but subtle, dangerous words. A short time later strange things had started going on in their house.
Listening as good neighbours without butting in, we then cut to the chase and spoke clearly without um-ing, ah-ing, er-ring and ‘Know what I mean’-ing. We didn’t have some massive Bible or 10,000 tracts with us and travel time was short but quickly and clearly we spoke in simple terms assuring him we understood and knew what was really going on.
Speaking confidently but not in a heavy religious tone, we said that God is real and brings light, peace and no heartache. That Satan, also very real, subtly drops darkness, trouble, uncertainty and heartache. That God can be trusted and his word forbids such things as card/ palm readings and praying to the dead. That praying to him in Jesus’ name brings release and answers.
As we dropped our neighbour off, he smiled relaxedly, greatly relieved. He had clearly heard genuine good news, without any distracting ‘hyphenating’ or references to something he could not respond to with a ‘Yeah, know what you mean.’ Later, he shared his thanks for our prayers and help. He now knew things would improve.
The reality of life is that whoever we are, whatever our nation or city across the world, we live in a dark night of pain, trouble, corruption, sickness, danger and satanic deceit. Everyone needs the assurance and security that only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ brings.
People – even churchgoers – everywhere in this troubled, indeed squalid world, need to clearly hear great biblical truths about God’s power, love and grace and receive meaningful answers that will bring them peace.
Paul, in Philippians 2, firstly talks about the awesomeness and greatness of Jesus Christ, what he did and achieved. Then in verse 15 he really lays his charge to us on the line: ‘Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night.’
There’s an old saying that life and death are in the power of words, our speech. James, in his chapter three, warns about controlling what we say. We’re exhorted to speak words of life…uplifting, not down putting.
We’ve had the joy of sharing good news with people from many different backgrounds, stations and faiths. Clearly, and without religious or rambling meaningless clutter, we’ve spoken life, not death, into their minds and hearts.
Let’s all – leaders and congregants – follow Jesus’ lead and clearly share the Bible’s good news in 2011.