January 13, Friday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

Is It Okay to Say, ‘Speak English, You are in America’?”

Daniel 1:3-4

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.

13aJust before last Christmas, an elderly woman’s caustic rant directed at two Hispanic shoppers in Louisville went viral.  She said many hurtful things such as “Go back to wherever the _____ you come from” and also “Speak English . . . you are in America.”

While attending many worship services in Mexico where I lived for a decade, I noticed that whenever visitors from America tried to introduce themselves in broken Spanish, most congregants appreciated it even if it was incomprehensible.  Such a gracious response, however, wasn’t extended to those Americans who were longtime residents of Mexico and continued to speak poor Spanish.

Among several reasons why a foreigner choosing to live in a new country should learn its language is being respectful toward the host nation and its people.  Just as important a reason is that the ability to speak the language of the land opens the door for wider job and educational opportunities.  From a socioeconomic standpoint, the fact that the prophet Daniel, taken to Babylon as a teenager, learned to speak and write in Aramaic (well enough to pen portions of his book in it) was one key factor that led to his high employment in the king’s palace.

13bRespectfully and lovingly encouraging immigrants, particularly the youth, to learn English is not racist; it’s a matter of showing respect for the host nation and doing what is good for their future wellbeing.  I came to the United States when I was 14 (1974) without speaking English; my SAT verbal score was 480.  Yes, mastering the English language was a struggle (still is), but in time, I attained enough proficiency to publish numerous articles in English, and I recently contributed a chapter to a textbook on mission published in England (2015).  I went to Mexico to serve as a missionary when I was 40 without the ability to speak any Spanish (2000).  After taking one year to learn it, I went to the field mostly to teach and develop theological courses (books) in Spanish, one of which was published in Mexico (2005), which is still being used as a textbook.

Even more significantly, learning a new language can be a spiritual experience because, in my case as an older person, I had to absolutely rely on God to learn Spanish.  And the faithful God gave me the wisdom and motivation to master Spanish in answer to my daily prayers.  Now, I can preach about the greatness of our God in a language spoken by over 500 million people—“Gloria a Dios!”

So, to my immigrant “compañeros,” I say without a hint of racism: “Work hard to learn English”; trust God in whom “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Prayer: Father, please help me to have a sympathetic heart toward those young people who still have a difficult time speaking and writing in English.  Help me to get involved with perhaps some outreach efforts such as local schools or afterschool programs so that I can tangibly express my faith in Christ through my community involvement.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 13


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read John 1:1, 14, 18 (ESV): In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . .. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Luke 2:52 (ESV): And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Questions to Consider

  1. Describe what had to transpire for God to make Himself known to us.
  2. Who came to where first, and once there, what did this individual have to learn?
  3. We began this day talking about learning the language of the host nation. In what sense did God show His great love and “respect” for His fallen creatures?

Notes

  1. God, who is infinite and transcendent and thus beyond the reach of humans, made Himself known to them through the Son, His “exact representation” (Heb. 1:3) who became flesh and dwelt among men so that they could know God through the incarnate Son.
  2. Jesus came to earth first in a human form and learned, including several languages (e.g., Aramaic, Greek, etc.), wisdom, obedience (Heb. 5:8), etc.
  3. God, knowing that fallen men cannot reach Him on their own, allowed His own Son to become one of them but without sin, beginning the process as a helpless baby so that the Son can bring us back to God and also become the source of comfort for us (Heb. 4:15) while we still journey on earth.

EVENING REFLECTION

In what language did you communicate today at home, school, or the office?  No, I’m not talking about English but the language of God.  2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us that “we are God’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”  Most ambassadors speak at least two languages: the language of the sending country and the host country.  So, how good is your grasp of the “language of God,” that is, God’s word?  How good is your grasp of the “language of man”, especially when they speak of their despair, hopelessness, and even deceptive concepts?  Why not make this year a time of really learning God’s language: reading and studying the Bible seriously.  And when you spend time with others, especially unbelievers, learn and prepare yourself to really understand what they’re trying to say about their life.   Then, pray for them and speak to them the language of God.  Pray for that right now.

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