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What Language Do You Speak?

Our title question would seem to be an easy one to answer. And yet…?

There is a “bureaucratese” which is spoken by government workers. There is a “legalese” which is spoken by lawyers. Not long ago I received a document with a lot of legal jargon in it. I began to read it, but then set it on my desk where it remains now. It was difficult to understand even though it was in English. There is one language spoken in the factory which is not the language spoken at home. One time while I was helping at a church one of the men walked in and began talking a language he doubtless would not have spoken if he had known I was there. Recently in the Oakland school district in California there has arisen the question about a kind of English called “ebonics.”


There is also a very interesting lingo spoken by both rich and poor, well educated and eighth graders. It could be vulgar or polished. It can be in different languages around the world. It circumvents the globe. It is “secularese.” Perhaps this is the language of post-Christian America. As any language does, it has grammatical rules. It has syntax. It can have a limited or expansive vocabulary. At first hearing it may sound fine.

It has definite rules, though, which disclose its detrimental danger. One rule is that under no circumstances may the word “God” be mentioned in a favorable light unless one refers to Him in a vague or obscure way. It is fine to curse and swear by His name. It is a taboo to use the word in “God be praised” or “The Lord did (this or that).” If one does refer to God, make sure that He is a vague and undefinable deity. Do not credit God with any good. Mention Him in passing if you will, but be sure to speak of the divine as being somewhere — but you are not quite sure where. You can by all means say, “Why did God let this happen?” or make the highly commendable statement, “if there is God in heaven…” (You will also note that the capitalization of nouns or pronouns referring to Him, as I have practiced here, is off limits.)

Secularese does permit the Bible to be quoted so long as one does not say where the quote is from in the Bible and does not really disclose that the quote is from the Bible. It can be a wise and pithy saying, and even one that is known by many, but just be sure the reference is obscure. It is a serious faux pas to quote book, chapter, and verse. This pegs one right off as a zealot, radical, extremist, fanatic, and a serious violator of secularese.

It is also a breach of secularese to, in your language, give any credit to faith. The secularese speaker will want to be sure — when referring to “faith” — to define it as an act of man. In this way the credit goes to man and not to any object of faith. A favorite saying of secularese is: “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe it firmly enough.” It is an horrendous no-no to let “faith” be spoken of as something that derives its power from its object, Jesus.

The Shepherds

At Christmas time the shepherds’ fear turned to joy based upon the message. That contagious joy, in turn, moved them to communicate. They glorified and praised God and dashed that taboo of secularese to the ground.

It is said that to really know a language you must think in that language. What language do we think in? We have Jesus Christ ruling our mind and heart. What language do we speak? Is it the real language of the everyday Christian?

Notice the smooth transition we make in our language, effortless really, when we leave the confines of the church building to take up again our daily lives. Were we to be among a group of college-trained people and to utter the word “ain’t,” we’d feel embarrassed. After saying that word we’d probably like to just crawl under a table, realizing the mistake we made depending in particular upon the audience. Are we embarrassed to say “Jesus,” “God,” “Lord”? There was not a hint of embarrassment for the shepherds to glorify and praise God, and to speak the normal language of the Christian to people.

Were the shepherds just ignorant, coarse rubes and zealots, radicals, extremists, fanatics? In the musical “the Music Man” there is a musical score where the great bandmaster is warning the people about dreadful words creeping into their children’s vocabulary. We laugh at the River City people being so aghast at harmless words being used. But it is no laughing matter at the purposeful deletion and (easy path) just plain ignoring of those blessed words “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” and giving Him glory and praise. The no-longer-lame man went about walking and leaping and praising God.

Christian friends, in the power of the Spirit delete the leaping if you will, but not the walking about, praising God. We have been healed of the sin disease that crippled far more than just our limbs. The infant King is the Savior of all people. Jesus is the real God who entered the real world for real people. He lived a real life and died a real death to atone for real sins.

What is the real language of our everyday life?

— Pastor David Koenig