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“The thing we want to learn about a stranger is fragile. If we tread carelessly, it will crumble under our feet… The right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility,” writes Malcolm Gladwell in Talking to Strangers.

Has this ever happened to you? You open your mouth to share a hopeful thing you heard, say, at church, and the other person stares at you. Maybe they nod and say, “Uh-huh.”

When you offer to shovel their driveway, they say, “Sure.” When you say, “I’ll bring dessert,” they say, “Yum.” So how can your words about God be heard?

My friend Brenda shares in her video how Stonecroft helped her rethink how to talk with someone with different beliefs. She talks about a need to avoid overly Christian language and find new ways to communicate.

Similarly, dictionaries can be a time capsule of language. If we look back at dictionaries from the 1800s, we’ll find words we never use now and words that now have different meanings. Language is important. How, when, and with whom we use it all matter. Especially when we want to help others experience God’s goodness.

The first Christians didn’t have such lingo issues on the day of Pentecost. What they did have was the Holy Spirit freshly imparted and flowing strong, as Acts 2:1-5 says:

On the day of Pentecost, [a] all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages,[b] as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

At that time, there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

The people in this passage were riding high on the adrenaline of understanding the risen Christ. And maybe that’s why we need to speak others’ language.

With Jesus’s love helping us, we can learn to befriend others and learn their language.

We can ask questions, listen, and understand.

We have an extraordinary gift to offer! How will we wrap it in words that ring clear and beautiful to a stranger?

Discussion Questions

What are some Christianese words people often use?

How have you actively listened to someone with an unfamiliar perspective?

Who can you pray for right now to ask God to show you how to speak their language?