Have you ever had a telephone conversation with someone only to learn mid-discussion that the person on the other end of the line has no idea who it is she’s been talking to? Now, there have been many instances where I’ve answered the phone and didn’t know who was calling me, but never before have I received a call from someone who didn’t know who it was that she was calling. If I’m the one answering the phone, I’ve always assumed the caller knew whose number it was that she was dialing. Evidently, that is not always the case!
I spent a recent morning making phone calls and leaving messages, so when I answered the phone and a familiar voice said, “I’m returning your call,” I jumped right in explaining the reason I had initiated the conversation. After spending a fair amount of time describing the upcoming event and explaining what type of volunteer I was looking for, the woman on the other end of the line said, “Before I commit to anything, I have to ask, ‘Who is it I am speaking to?’”
This really caught me off guard. Since I had left her a detailed message and she was returning my call, I assumed she knew who she was talking to. I later came to find out that she hadn’t listened to my message and was just returning a call to a number that showed up on her caller ID.
We often make assumptions without even realizing that we’re doing so. We assume the other party knows what we know, but that isn’t always the case. I think this disconnect often comes into play when it comes to talking about our faith.
Even though I was raised going to church every Sunday, I had very little knowledge of the Bible or anything in it. I remember being asked to choose a reading out of one of the Gospels, but I had no idea that the Gospels were the books of the Bible that talked about the life of Jesus, and that those books are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
When my husband and I started attending a church that used the Bible in the service, I used to watch the people in front of me to see how thick the pages were on either side of the place they were reading so that I would have a general idea of where to start looking for the passage. I recall one Sunday in particular when I insisted to my husband that my Bible was missing a book. I looked and looked, but I couldn’t find the book of Job. I told him I found Job (as in “go get a job”) but not Jobe (as in the plant fertilizer). Who named that book anyway? Everyone who knows the English language knows that there needs to be an “e” at the end of the word to make the vowel say its name! How was I supposed to find a book when the name was written/pronounced “wrong”?
I’m living proof that even someone raised attending church can be Biblically illiterate, so it’s important that we don’t make assumptions when it comes to matters of faith. We can tell by the words of the apostle Paul that he was sensitive to the people he was ministering to.
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible… To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law… I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:19, 21-23
We often start speaking “Christianese” without even recognizing it, which is why we need to be aware of what we’re saying and who we’re speaking to. That’s why I always write out the name of the book of the Bible when I reference it rather than use the abbreviation. Even then, to someone unfamiliar with it, a Scripture reference can look like a secret code. I heard of a woman who said just that, that she had figured out the code. When asked what code she was referring to, she said, “You know, the code. Number colon number. I figured out what it means.” We can’t assume that when we give a Scripture reference to someone, they will know that the number before the colon is the chapter and the number after the colon is the verse.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15
Peter tells us to always be ready to share our faith, but we must be ready to share it in a way that everyone can understand.
Father, thank you for allowing me to develop a close relationship with you. Help me to be thoughtful and remember to speak in a way in which those who don’t know you can understand.