Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Cultural Translation

One of the questions that we must keep returning to is this: 'What words and images can we use to effectively communicate the message of Jesus, the cross and the resurrection to today's people?'. Given that culture, language and its idioms constantly change, are we updating ourselves adequately to continue reaching people?

Note that this is not about re-thinking the theology of the cross, about abandoning previous understandings or thirsting for new models of the atonement. It is ensuring that we use words, expressions and forms that speak into people's own worldviews in ways that they can understand, so that their eyes are lifted God-ward in Christ. We don't want our message of the cross to effectively be like Japanese to the English speakers of today or tomorrow!

Thankfully we do not necessarily have to be deeply studied theologians to assist this task - we just need the Spirit to be at work and to take notice. I read yesterday that a young person had had their attention caught by Christ and wrote this to Christian leaders by way of their own thankyou: ".. Jesus was put on the cross for us so we don't have to put the blade to our own skin ...".

Brilliant - straight to the point and right there in the vernacular of current youth culture.

One sad characteristic of current youth culture is surely the number (near epidemic proportions?) of people self-harming, somehow caught up in a belief that harming (typically cutting) oneself will cover mistakes, or feeling of 'bad inside', or senses of loneliness or emptiness - as if the cut(s) will somehow atone for and remove them. Of course, as each person discovers, it is a fleeting feeling and only hours or days later proves to be a hollow relief - those negative feelings return all too quickly.

Somehow in our 'enlightened society' something (spiritual?) has convinced people to turn on themselves. In religious terms it is no better than the primitive behaviour of the prophets of Baal who slashed themselves (see 1 Kings 18) to invoke or please their (false) god.

Yet this young person has realised all this is false and because of Christ is unnecessary. Whatever may make us think we have to turn on ourselves is wrong ... because Jesus has suffered enough already, in our place. Our mistakes: dealt with by Him; our 'bad inside': probably quite real, but in any case dealt with by Him; our loneliness and emptiness: met by Him who has suffered to take and resolve it all.

We do not have to be cut ... because He has been cut for us. No more need for our own blades.

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