The Limits of Our God

“Is it okay with God if I pray in Chinese?” We’ve heard this question several times. It doesn’t bother some people; they just put two and two together: God is all-powerful, so He is not limited linguistically. But some people’s only contact or experience with the ideas of Christianity has been in studies of American culture, English-speaking cinema, and even our Thursday night Bible study, which we conduct (right now, anyway) in English. So the only prayers they’ve heard have been in English. The only Bible reading? English. The only teaching? In English. So they start to wonder… is this really just about the language? They don’t really know any exceptions to the “Americans = Christians; Chinese = non-religious” rule. So it’s really not that stupid of a question.

Of course, we explain, “God hears the prayer of your heart. He understands all languages. He wants you to pray in the language He created you to speak.” Even, “There’s a whole bunch more people that speak Chinese than speak English, so God must like your language better!” Or, “Christianity is not even a western religion; it’s really an eastern religion.” But there is still a tendency in our Thursday-night-attenders to try to read the Bible in English. To pray in English. They feel like somehow it must be better, somehow closer to the God of these Americans.

Imagine the feeling. You go to an English-speaking Bible study and find out that there’s a God that loves you and sent His Son to die for your sin. Amazing. Then you think how great it would be to bring others to discover the truths of God’s Word. But then you realize: it’s in English! Your friends wouldn’t understand. Then a strange, sad thought dawns on you. You had to study English for years to understand what you heard tonight. What kind of a God only speaks English?

God never intended language learning to be a prerequisite for hearing the Gospel. In fact, He never intended ANYTHING to be a prerequisite to hearing the Gospel. NO lines should be crossed to hear the Gospel. Not a cultural line, not a relational line, not a physical boundary line, not a linguistic. The people of the world should not be called upon to come to our country to hear the Gospel. Nor should they be expected to learn our language. Nor should they hope to be lucky enough to make a long-term friendship with a Christian. NO PREREQUISITES! In fact, that’s what the “go” in the Great Commission was all about! We are to take the Gospel to them! To cross every boundary possible so that every person can see Jesus and accept or reject Him.

The alternative is quite disturbing, and it is the judgment of a generation: we serve a God that is limited by the boundaries we DON’T cross!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Does God understand Chinese? at Be My Witnesses - August 8, 2007

    […] Does God understand Chinese? Some thoughts on God and language. […]

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