Think of all the languages in the world. Each language captures a unique concept of life separate from all other tongues. The words connected to ideas like family, soul, eternity, intelligence, and even something as simple as meal communicate vast varieties of images and knowledge. These myriad sounds combined in just the right way also convey facets of truth only grasped by those with the ability to process the specific pronunciation produced by the air flowing from the throats of the speakers of that language.
Now, multiply those facets of truth by the thousands of languages alive in the world. Truth, then, in all its facets, exceeds our singular abilities to conceive it in its complete entirety.
God communicates in every language. He is a God of a thousand tongues, and more. He connects with speakers of Arabic and American Sign Language. He delights in the praise sung by silent Koreans and cacophonous Kenyans alike. The prayers of Urdu, Yue, and Aymara reverberate with equal clarity in the ears of our ever attentive, omnipresent, Jehovah Shammah.
If I can only relate with God in one, maybe two, languages with authenticity and earnest this means I only know the truth of God’s character as revealed in those few tongues. I must concede that I know very little of my God, then, since He is more than capable of communicating with deft proficiency in thousands of tongues. His fluency in the truth of thousands of tongues speaks to the unfathomable depth of His character, the expansive width of His capabilities, and the immense height of His empathic compassion.
He is present
Yet, I know Him. He knows me. The sliver of His being He allows me to know through my limited abilities of relating with another being, is enough. To know that all I have come to know and will ever know is enough, yet that it is infinitesimal in comparison to all who He is, speaks volumes to divine sovereignty.
With supreme wisdom He allows us to set up our strategies, our denominations, and our constructs. And He is present. He permits us to do what we perceive to be appropriate. And He is present. He watches us make moves, take steps, connect with people as our conviction drives us. And He is present. He walks alongside us, arm in arm, as a dear friend.
Who am I to dare try to fit Him into my limited perception? Who am I to exclude any one of His dearly beloved speakers of the thousands of tongues? Who am I to declare my hate as holy, my indignant prejudice as righteous, or my nit-picking as justified?
The only side God takes is love. He doesn’t draw battle lines and stand in one camp. He doesn’t pick players for His team and leave the rejects as His opponents. He loves every person on every side we humans devise. He loves every person of all the thousands of tongues alive on all lands.
One of my Bolivian friends and I chatted about a little get-together I hosted in my home. The ladies who came for coffee had only one thing in common: we were foreigners. My Bolivian friend asked, “What’s the difference between you all? I know you are missionaries, but I don’t think you are with the same organization? So what do each of you believe?”
I told her, “Usually when we get together we speak about culture stuff, parenting, and whatever is going on in our every day lives. We rarely speak about theology or religion. Sometimes we talk about the social aid aspects of our different projects, but we have an unspoken agreement to not bring up the topic of what we believe. We assume everyone at the table loves God and loves people – and that seems to be enough for us.”
This deliberate avoidance of conversations regarding the lines that might divide us creates a safe space. The defenses come down and inclusion defines us. We acknowledge that passionate commitment to our causes exists. Instead of trying to convert one another based on our various convictions, we accept the differences and lean in with love.
Please allow your heart expand with the vastness of all who God is in your life. Know that you are His beloved.
May the love of the Speaker of a thousand tongues be the language of fluency we possess.