Language Barrier

Ciao! Mi chiamo Madison! Sono Americana, e non parlo l’italiano.

Translation: “Hi! My name is Madison. I’m American, and I don’t speak Italian.” I suppose that’s an ironic statement, given that I wrote that in Italian, but I only know enough Italian to order food, say please and thank you, and ask where the bathroom is.

Living in Florence the past month, I needed to know minimal Italian; most public servants and shop owners are accustomed to tourists and speak decent English. The village of Feltre however, where I traveled this weekend for JazzIt, was far less accustomed to tourists. To paint you a picture, imagine dropping an Italian in the middle of Kentucky and having them try to find someone who speaks their language. It was kind of like that.

For the first time in my life, I was in a language minority. There weren’t many ways that the people of Feltre could accommodate me and my ignorance of their language. I had to try to speak theirs. So I popped out my trusty Italian dictionary/phrase book to supplement what little Italian I already knew. I made many mistakes (those are another story) but I survived. 

We as humans would often rather be accommodated than go out of our way to accommodate others. Often, we feel entitled to be accommodated. But the gospel flips this human instinct on its head. Jesus, being wholly God, had every right to demand that we accommodate Him, giving us the ultimatum of obedience or death. Instead, not considering equality with God something to be grasped, He became wholly man and died to accommodate us. 

By becoming a man and dying on the cross, Jesus broke the divine language barrier between us and Him; He came to us because we couldn’t get to Him. He calls us to do the same: “Go ye therefore into the world and make disciples of all nations.” If we are to reflect the character of Christ to the world, we cannot demand for our preferences to be accommodated. 

When we die with Christ and are raised to new life, we put our selfish desires to death as well for the sake of the gospel. We as Christians choose to live to serve others, learning their language and committing to their good, because this is what Jesus did for us. This is how the language of the gospel spreads: in service and love.

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