“If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me.” (14:11)
Hidden among a context of doing everything in love–and remembering exactly what love looks like–I find this hilariously relate-able verse about being around a foreign language. The NASB (our most literal English translation) quotes Paul as calling a foreign language speaker a Barbarian. This is funny, because back then, the Greeks fancied themselves the highest of society, and non-Greeks were Barbarians. Anyone outside the Greco-Roman culture was considered unrefined or inferior: Barbaric. The NASB straight up translates the word “Barbarian” to “Foreigner”.
Paul is driving the point home, that if someone is off speaking tongues in a way that doesn’t edify the whole of the congregation, they sound like an inferior, unrefined, fill-in-the-blank-foreigner-you-feel-better-than. Funny how most people can think of some group of people who seem “barbaric” by comparison, and the poor folks over at NIV just used the word “foreigners”, because it’s super base-line human to look down on people who are different from you, whom you don’t understand.
This might seem super off topic from the point of these verses, but hey, this is just me reporting my thoughts on the daily readings, right? There’s no compulsion to have the same cliche take-a-ways every time! Feel free to notice bizarre things!
I’ve spent a lot of the last couple years being the Barbarian-Foreigner who doesn’t know whats going on. That’s okay. I can take that heat for however long. The point is there is a language we all understand. It’s international. It’s love.
Whenever you start “doing church” in a self-serving way, that maybe only makes sense to you and maybe also your friends, its not helpful. You’re being Barbaric to the rest of the group. Don’t exclude people. Love draws in. Love longs to communicate understanding and worth. Love takes the long way for the sake of deeper relationship and quality time. Love turns foreigners into friends.
Who sounds Barbaric to you? Who might find you Barbaric? How can you move toward that person/group in love?