Answering The Call is an international missions organization dedicated to reaching people in difficult to reach places.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Love In Any Language

It may surprise some to realize that I am Baptist enough, and old enough, to remember the song “Love in any Language” by Sandy Patty. I am not necessarily proud of it, my age that is, but it's true. I can remember singing this song loudly as I listened on my bootlegged cassette riding down Interstate 77.

I am currently in Turkey and as I think upon songs of old, I am a bit ashamed of my taste in years gone by; however, I am reminded of the truth embedded in this particular song. I suppose that for me it’s affirming. In the last few years I have become increasingly convinced both theologically and experientially of the centrality of love in the "good news". My youngest son has suggested that this is a decrease in my production of testosterone. I disagree, thinking it to be maturity instead.

In the once great bastion of Christendom here in the city of Antioch there currently exists only four small evangelical churches to serve this city of some 250,000. It might be said that the church bells are drowned out by the speakers calling Muslims to prayer five times a day. If said, it would not be true because the love of God expressed in His Son remains.

After church I sat and talked with the pastors wife. We drank tea while several others stood around and stared at me. Her English was sufficient to the extent that she could share her testimony with me. She explained that growing up Muslim her relationship with god was really no relationship at all. In fact, all she felt for this distant and uninvolved deity was anger. In her way of understanding at the time it is probably true and the anger was somewhat justified.

She grew up in a family with a father who had little regard for a daughter. She explained to me that in her culture women are less than second place. The phrase I think she was looking for was that women are property. They are cared for and kept around so long as they are useful. I can imagine that when they are no longer useful they are disregarded. As her father's property she was denied her dream. A simple one really, she wanted to go to school. She understood that the order of things was established by God. While she dared not verbalize it to others, she did begin to tell him that she was in fact very angry with him. Being as distant as he was he did not respond.

As she grew up she did what was most useful for others and married. While she served her purpose she found herself in a relationship with her husband that sounded to me like her relationship with her God, one characterized by another party who was distant and uninvolved. It is not hard to see why her anger continued to grow and even seethed.

At a particularly difficult point in all of this she described through many tears crying out to God and unleashing her anger on Him. This time His distance evaporated and rather than being uninvolved He was quite engaging. She explained that He spoke to her. She was quick to point to her heart and say, "Not here", and then pointed to her ears and said, "here". To be sure I understood I asked her with some surprise, "Are you saying that you heard the audible voice of God?” "Yes!" she responded with some excitement over an event that had occurred many years ago. I asked the obvious question, "What did He tell you?" She beamed as she answered simply, “He said, ‘I love you’."

In this new found context of love she was free to explore Him. He was safe. She read the Quran and the Bible to gain further understanding of this love. The Bible fully explained this love and the ultimate embodiment of it in Jesus. Her distant husband has also now has been transformed. As a pastors wife she now leads a womens' ministry in Turkey where others are finding love and stepping into freedom.

So, now you see my reminder of love as the central theme in the good news that is to be spread around the world. The essence of our message is love. Powerful, in that it sets captives free. Can we remember that true repentance is most often a response to Love? Sometimes I think we are tempted to believe that guilt and control are really more expedient.

This reminder also gives way to some wanderings in my brain. It makes me wonder how many woman here in Turkey still labor under this same strategy of the enemy that my new friend broke free from. It makes me wonder how many women in the states also operate under the oppression of this same spirit. It even makes me wonder if utilitarian religious systems in the states, unknowingly at times, provide bars to a similar prison. I'm starting to wonder if a gospel not based in love is really good news at all.

Probably, most of all, it makes me want to hear the audible voice of God because I find I am no longer afraid of what He would say.