Sunday, November 9, 2014

First Person Interpreting

On Monday evening I helped interpret for Parent-Teacher conferences.  In our training we were told to use the first person.  Not ‘my’ first person, but that of the other two.  We were not to say, “Her name is Miss Smith”, but “Hello, my name is Miss Smith”.  Not, “Yes, she understands” but “Yes, I understand.”  

This was something I had already learned to do when I was in the DR. While interpreting for Daisy, I noticed a difference when I would say, “Her name is Daisy and she has three children” and when I said, “My name is Daisy, and I have three children”. 
Using the first person pulled people into her testimony.  When I used “she” and “her”, the focus remained on me, which undermined the purpose of interpreting – facilitating a connection between the two of them. 

When we share the Good News of Jesus with someone unfamiliar with it, we are, in a sense, interpreting for God.  Almighty, all-powerful, the One who swears by His own name.  If I really think about it, it is preposterous that finite, broken, human me is even attempting it!  We are, in fact, interpreting for the first ‘first person’.  Hello, My name is I AM who I AM (Exodus 3:14).
This is no small thing!  And so, I need to ask myself, am I interpreting in the first person?  When I finished interpreting for Daisy, the students felt they knew her better.  There was time later for them to get to know me, but my purpose was their connection.  I loved how, afterward, the students would be more comfortable approaching Daisy, attempting to talk with her without my help, despite the language barrier.

When I share Jesus, do I spend more time on my story, my perspective, my opinions than on showing the other person what God Himself is saying through His word?  At the end of it, do they know Him better?  Are they more comfortable approaching Him or are they always waiting for me to make it happen?

Now, I’m not saying it is wrong to share my testimony with someone!  Or, to help answer questions or walk with another as they begin a relationship with Jesus.  We are called to make disciples and that is a part of it. 
We can never forget, however, that the focus of discipleship is becoming like who we are following.  If we spend more time sharing ourselves than Jesus, who do we expect the new believer will look like?  If we don’t continually go back to I AM, interpreting in the first person, we risk undermining the very connection we desire for them.

Of course, as always, I can only take this so far, because God does more than just sit there waiting for me to correctly interpret for Him.  The Holy Spirit is fluent in ‘human’, interceding for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26).  God always acts first, drawing us to Himself before we realize we need Him.

Friends, we need to teach new believers (and not so new believers) how to study the Bible.  It is there God has chosen to reveal His character.  In its pages we learn of His love and power, His story of glory and salvation.  Nothing a human has to say is more compelling than God's own words revealed in the Bible. 
Too often we act as if starting with other books or commentaries is a better way.  Kind of ease them into the Bible.  But, that is not interpreting in the first person, and actually hinders the very connection we are trying to facilitate. 

Let’s be confident that when the focus of our interpreting is Jesus and not ourselves, there will be a life-giving, personal connection.  That using His very words, given to us through scripture, is the way to transformation.  I AM who I AM has promised it, and He is faithful.   

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