In her work as a clinical dietitian in a hospital, my wife often has to translate medical jargon into everyday language as she instructs heart patients on the new diets that their treatment requires. Paul and Judy Chelson remind us that we may need to do similar translation in sharing the gospel.
“We just got back from hearing some amazing speakers at a national Christian conference. The theological terms the speakers used communicated well with that audience. But as we listened it struck us, how would these terms sound to those we share the Gospel with? The words we use as Christians on an everyday basis, and even when we are sharing the Gospel, can probably seem confusing to those who are new to Christianity. It is almost as if we need to translate the concepts into a different language.
This reminded us of a recent Christianity Explored session. We had a guest that seemed puzzled when we asked: What would you say if God asked you, “Why should I give you eternal life? She struggled to understand what that meant, so I tried explaining. This helped me realize how important it is to translate Christian terminology so people truly understand the message of the Gospel clearly.
Explaining these words clearly can not only deepen people’s understanding of the Gospel, but ultimately of God. Take sin for example. We use this word a lot as Christians especially when explaining the Gospel, but what if a non-christian doesn’t understand it’s meaning. It might be more helpful to describe how we all rebel against God and how we tend to focus on what we want in life instead of what God wants.
Rather than explain that Jesus died for our sin on the cross, we could speak about Jesus rescuing us from the mess that we make of our lives. When we call Jesus the Lamb of God this reminds us how He became the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Perhaps, we could clarify by explaining that Jesus put his own life between God’s judgment and us.
What about eternal life? To us it gives hope, but for non-christians the thought of living forever might not sound so great. It might be more helpful to speak about living life with a loving God both now and forever.
As we share Jesus with others, we need to practice explaining Gospel concepts. Like a good translator, we need to make sure we understand the meaning ourselves before we simplify the language for others. Learning to explain it simply to others has the added benefit of helping us gain a better grasp of these truths.”
As Rico Tice says, “The best spontaneity is rehearsed.”
–Paul and Judy Chelson