The Language Rant
“I’d go into missions, but learning the language is such a big a barrier.”
I hear some variation on this statement at least once a week. (Granted, that’s partially my fault. I’m in seminary and I view it as my responsibility to hound call every one of my classmates into foreign missions).
This is when the pieces of my past as a Soldier start to surface… Suddenly, I’m screaming Suck it up, Buttercup! We’ve got a job to do! (Thankfully, that’s been mostly in my head so far).
1. The language excuse expresses that we are beholden to the comfort of the English language more than to God’s All-Sufficiency. Most of the world operates in 2-3 languages daily, and you’re telling me that God’s not allowed to call you into missions because you’re afraid of how difficult it will be to learn oneadditional language? This is the God of Babel and of Pentecost we are talking about.
2. The language excuse is an expression of our stoicism toward our fellow humans. As C.S. Lewis warns, “…avoid all entanglements; lock [your heart] up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” We’re called to be broken-hearted in love for our human race, as Jesus was.
If-and-when you wrestle with the question of God’s potentially calling you to missions - and I pray you genuinely do - remember:
Do not fear for I am with you; be not afraid of learning a new languagefor I am your God. I will strengthen you and give you help with grammar and diction and daily operation in a foreign language and culture.I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, out of context and with some slight additions).
Make no mistake: learning a language is difficult work.Raising kids is difficult work. Sharing the Gospel is difficult work.Completing your degree is difficult work. Leaving home, not knowing if you will return, is difficult work.
You are made for difficult work. It is a solemn joy. We must, by God’s grace, die with our boots on.
And so I plead: don’t buy into the language excuse. Jesus translated His whole Person into human flesh, becoming fully-God-in-full-humanity. God may not be calling you to a foreign land - I can’t say - but He is absolutely calling you to walk in the fullness of His love, which drives us into sacrifice over comfort and the hope of eternal reward over mortal risk.