It is an understatement to refer to Miami as a diverse community. People come here to live or visit from all parts of the world. While English, Spanish, and Creole are the predominant languages spoken here, it is also very common to hear others at any given time. The challenges this creates are obvious, as there is simply an inability to communicate with one another. How wonderful it would be if we all spoke the same language! For those who, like me, are linguistically challenged, this sounds like a dream. Stories of my feeble efforts to speak in a language other than English – and the ensuing mishaps – are legendary within my family.
It has not always been this way. In the beginning, people spoke one language. However, this all changed early on as told in the story of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11). The selfish plans of the people for self-glorification, possible because of their one language, were directly thwarted by God. God confused their language “so they will not understand each other.” (Verse 7). We have felt the repercussions ever since.
Obviously, we have a problem. But what is the solution? Society would tell us we should all learn one language. While that would be convenient, history tells us that simply will not happen. As Americans, we tend to assume the answer to is to speaker louder and slower (don’t do this – it’s embarrassing!)
But God himself gives us his own language of unity: Love. “Love” is mentioned over 200 times in the New Testament. And love, as described by God, is done not with words or speech, but with action and in truth(1 John 3.18). It is loving your neighbor as yourself(Matt 22.39).
1 Cor 13.1 “If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging symbol.”
Here is one practical example of how this can look to God: I am in a worship service, and a song is being sung in a language I don’t understand. Instead of appreciating the beauty of the song (God hears love) and the worshipful hearts of those singing (God hears love), I am thinking about how I can’t understand the song (God hears a resounding gong) or how “they” should learn my language (God hears a clanging symbol).
We may not know another’s language, but we can each “speak” the same language. The language of unity is more than a smile, greeting, or sitting together in a pew. We speak in love when we are patient, kind, humble, and rejoice in the truth; when we protect, trust, hope, and persevere. And we know that we are not speaking in love when we are boastful, proud, self-seeking, easily angered, or remembering wrongs. (1 Cor 13.4-7).
How does this translate to our everyday living? Let’s consider how our actions and attitudes measure up to the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Let’s make efforts to understand the background, culture, history of others. Let’s be honest with ourselves and recognize our prejudices and biases (we all have them).
When God looks upon us, may he hear the beautiful language of love.