I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22 NKJV
What is understandable to one person isn’t necessarily understandable to someone else.
Our good friends had moved from Colorado. The wife was a native Coloradoan; the husband a native South Carolinian. When Jan’s mother-in-law sent her to the store to get loaf bread, she assumed it would be an easy mission. After all, who doesn’t know what bread is.
A few minutes later, Jan called. “I don’t see any loaf bread.”
“You mean, the store is completely out of bread,” her mother-in-law replied.
“No, I see plenty of bread. There is just no loaf brand.”
I’m with Jan. In the neck of the woods where I grew up—the lower regions of South Carolina, bread was just called bread. At the most, I might say I was going to get a loaf of bread, but never did I refer to it as loaf bread. Since bread is cooked in loaves, calling it loaf bread seemed redundant.
Then again, I didn’t grow up in Upstate South Carolina where that’s a familiar term. Just like hose pipe. I always knew it as hose or garden hose. After all, they are hoses, not pipes. Of course, I have sayings my wife—an Upstate girl, isn’t familiar with either.
As an early missionary, Paul too faced customs—and probably terms, he wasn’t familiar with. His goal was to find common ground with people—at least as much as was possible without compromising the gospel message he preached.
Having grown up in church, I’m familiar with a host of “churchy” words others who haven’t grown up in church might find foreign. Words like justification, sanctification, glorification, millennialism, vestibule, pulpit, sanctuary. And the list goes on.
Like Paul, my mission as a believer is to share God’s love and offer of forgiveness with all people—regardless of nationality, race, language, culture, or social standing.
Doing so means learning their “language” so I can modify—but not compromise, my “churchy” language. Then they can understand what God has done for them in Jesus Christ and accept His forgiveness. Otherwise, they will go on their merry way in an unforgiven state.
Learn to find common ground with those who don’t know Christ so you can point them to His gracious love.
Prayer: Father, let us love others even as You have loved us.