Have you seen John 3:16 or God loves you! signs at ball games, on barn roofs and the sides of buildings? I'm sure the intentions behind them were good, but for someone who has no idea who God is, telling them that God loves them is not very helpful. It might be like a payphone without a dime or calling card, or like a flat cellphone without a charger. Give me a better analogy.
Unless the signs were meant as conversation starters, with hospitality included, they are of little use to someone raised without a spiritual frame of reference.
Many believers cannot fathom life without God. While that is a great comfort to them, it does create communication barriers with people who cannot conceptualise why in the world there should be a god.
How do you bridge the conceptual gaps when you communicate with people outside of your field of expertise? While the conversation may all be undertaken in the same language, someone must choose to see from the others' perspective and reframe the concepts so they are intelligible to the other.
Have an example of communication gone wrong?
Or of the conceptual leap happening well?
Philip Yancey was asked:
If you could shout one thing from the rooftops to Christians in America, what would it be?
I think back to a quote from the early church theologian named Irenaeus. “The glory of God is a person fully alive,” he said. A lot of people think of Christians as living some kind of half-life or two-thirds life. I’m fully convinced that Jesus came to show us how to life a full life. I can’t imagine anyone following Jesus around, then sadly shaking their head and saying, “My, think of all he missed out on.” Those who truly followed Jesus realized all they were missing out on.
Who is Jesus—for people living in today? And for you?
Quite simply, Jesus is the bridge between God and human beings. He came to show us what God is like, and at the same time to show us what we could be like, as God’s children. He came to proclaim the radical message that God doesn’t just love good people—every religion claims that—but also sinners. The story of the Bible, in a nutshell, is God welcoming home his family, with arms outstretched like the prodigal’s father.
I hear from many suffering people who ask me how God must feel about what they are enduring. I point them to Jesus. We know exactly how God feels because God gave us a face, and we can see Jesus comforting a widow who lost her only son, healing even the servant of a Roman occupying soldier, restoring health to the blind, the crippled, those with leprosy. At the same time, we get a graphic image—like an ideograph—of what kind of life we should live, a life like Jesus.’
Most stunning of all, Christians believe that Jesus is still alive, the Spirit of God who accepts us with all our secrets and gradually transforms us into someone more like him. The historians, of course, emphasize Jesus’ effect on history, and even the agnostics must admit that no person ever had a greater impact. As a journalist, I see more the personal effect of prisoners and drug addicts transformed, of wealthy people humbled to care for the forsaken, of doctors who forgo comfort to serve the needy. Jesus is God’s promise that no matter what we do, we can be forgiven and no matter who we are, we can be transformed.
Check out the rest of the conversation at Philip Yancey.com