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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Vantage Point: Clear Communication

By Ken Horn
Aug. 18, 2013

I was on a layover at an airport in 2009 when Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi was addressing the United Nations in New York. The speech was broadcast on television in the waiting areas, so I stopped to listen. The translation, both verbal and closed-captioned, was virtually incomprehensible. With international relations at stake, I thought how important it was to know precisely what was being said.

As the camera panned delegates from other nations, I thought how unlikely it was for all of them to get direct translations into their languages. Many probably had to go through another common language first, increasing the opportunity of misunderstanding. (Remember the parlor game Gossip?)

In our nation, the slightest nuance of wording is dissected, analyzed and reanalyzed. This same level of scrutiny is not viable through translations. The gibberish on the TV screen that day at the airport was certainly disconcerting.

Years ago, I boarded a Finnair flight from Los Angeles for a preaching tour of Finland. I had studied some Finnish in preparation. Aboard, my attempt to answer the flight attendant in his own language was met with confusion, followed by rollicking hilarity among the attendants in the galley. Turns out I had asked him to bring me a worm to drink.

The confusion of tongues unleashed at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 has had far-ranging effects. But it’s not just ethnic languages that are different. Men and women often don’t understand one another. Many who speak the same ethnic language speak different cultural languages.

On the other hand, I think of the instant camaraderie I have experienced all over the world with other Christians even when we didn’t understand each other’s language.

But religious jargon can be a barrier to non-Christians or new believers — a language they can’t understand.

During Gadhafi’s speech, he tore up a copy of the UN charter, stunning the delegates. His actions were clearly understood.

Christians also convey a clear message by what people see them do.

Yes, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21, NIV), but only if it can be understood. The tongue’s great power (James 3:5) must be harnessed to love people by presenting a message that is clearly understood. This means preaching it with simple words ... and with our lives.

Ken Horn


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