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Leisa McDonald – Global Events Coordinator

A few years ago, we had the pleasure of hosting two teenagers who were part of a South African Children’s Choir. One of the young ladies had never been outside of Cape Town so this was a very new experience for her. We knew a young man from South Africa who was also in the states and had him over for dinner to help ease cultural barriers.

The girls wanted to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) for dinner that first night, but our young man friend encouraged the girls to try something new (there are KFC restaurants in Cape Town, so this was not new food for them). We opted for a favorite restaurant of his instead. Since the girls were not familiar with the food options on the menu, he decided to order on their behalf. When he selected Chicken Fingers, both of the girls had shocked looks on their faces. It took me a moment, but I quickly realized they were hearing the words and without our cultural context were visualizing actual chicken fingers!

The misunderstanding produced a lot of laughter that evening and left a fond memory that we still enjoy today. It also provides a constant reminder that sometimes in life our conversations, a story or an experience can get “lost in translation.” Children often have “lost in translation” moments because they hear words in a literal sense and don’t have life experience to help provide meaning. The older we get and the more we do in life, the less this tends to happen.

We even see this in scripture when we consider that there are three Greek words used for love in the New Testament and they all have different meanings. When you know the meaning and can apply that meaning in context of the scripture passage, you have a richer experience and understanding. Additionally, reading a passage in a variety of Bible translations can deepen the meaning of a verse and its relevance to our life.

The same is true of global experiences. It is easy to listen to news reports from places in the Middle East and North Africa and have negative feelings toward a people group or country based on what you are hearing.  When we only hear about war, terrorist attacks, or political unrest in a given country, we form a view or opinion that is largely negative. The reality of that situation is “lost in translation” because we only have a limited perspective to draw from.

In scripture, we are called to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Jesus was later asked to define “neighbor” and he shared the parable of the Good Samaritan. The neighbor Jesus describes in this story is not the guy next door or even a person within the community. The neighbor was actually someone considered to be an enemy of His Jewish audience. This is a hard truth to absorb today as much as it was to the original listeners.

It is easy to love those we know and those who fall into our common understanding. But those who we don’t know or who we have a negative view of can be much harder to love. Remember those weird chicken fingers our young ladies were worried about? They became a fast favorite! Can I encourage you this next week to seek to understand those you don’t know so you can fully love them as your neighbor?

Lost in Translation

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