Latin is not the Language of Love
It is said that Voltaire was considered the wisest man of his age. People were always clamoring for his attention, asking for an audience with him, trying to get his opinion and advice on any number of topics. It reached a point where he could hardly keep up with the demand, so he struck upon an idea. He would limit those who could meet with him by putting a rule in place. He declared that he would meet with anyone as long as the conversation was in Latin. For too long this has been the stance of the church in America. We will welcome anyone who will come to us, speak our language and behave properly. Until you can do that, we’re not really interested in having you around. We have practiced a strategy of isolationism – withdrawing from society and creating our own parallel subculture.
This stands in sharp contrast to what Jesus actually had in mind. In John 17, the night before Jesus died, he prayed to his Father, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one…. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:15, 18). Jesus calls us to go into the world and be a leavening force – not just an evangelistic force but also a redemptive force for culture in general. In order to do this, we must become students of the culture, harnessing what is timely to say what is timeless. We must stop making the world learn our language; we must go and learn theirs first.
That’s what it means to value the dignity of people made in the image of God. We don’t just listen to other people so we can counter their arguments. We do it because it’s fair. We don’t avoid being dismissive, hostile or belligerent because it helps our case, but because we refuse to violate another person’s dignity. Even if you don’t respect the person you’re talking to, value the image of God in that person. There’s a relationship between the worth you ascribe to God and the way you treat the people he loves. Like him, we’re supposed to love not just the people who agree with us; we’re supposed to love even those who despise us.
Christians must get involved with politics, in academics, in the stock market, in medical research, in entertainment. Christians should lead the way in every field of endeavor. Christians should be the experts, the ones who have invested the most time and energy in the best research and produced the best results. If we were living like this, no one would question the validity of the gospel’s power to transform individual lives and societies at large. They’d be too busy trying to figure out how to get some of what we’ve got.