Friday, November 18, 2011

Teaching English with a Purpose

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord…” Ephesians 5:8a

Every week Ayaan and I have conversational English practice in her home. I composed a list of opposite pairs of words for Ayaan. I want her to learn English but, at the same time, begin to understand important Biblical concepts. She is still at a relatively low level of reading and speaking English. After a half hour of conversation practice we read through one story in 101 Bible Stories for Toddlers, by Carolyn Larsen. As we conversed about the stories over the months it became clear that much of what is written has to do with opposite things like: evil and good, darkness and light, far and near, lost and found, enemy and friend, dead and alive, right and wrong, grace and law, faith and works, etc. On my own I went through the Bible Story book and listed many of the opposite words and concepts that came up. I thought if Ayaan could understand all these words in English and be clear about them in her own language then she could certainly get a better grasp of spiritual concepts between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of earth. We who are in Muslim ministry often can be so focused on building bridges by discussing similarities in our respective faiths that we can actually overlook speaking about spiritual concepts that are very opposite. This can happen easily where the cultural values of showing respect and tolerance are important to uphold living in a pluralistic society such as in Canada. We don’t want to offend anyone. We want peace. So, we don’t bring up differences. It’s tempting to stay safe and talk about the similarities or keep quiet when there is an obvious difference.

Today the story with Ayaan was about Zacchaeus.  Some of the opposite word pairs which can come up in discussing that story are: short and tall, bad and good, lost and found, happy and sad, right and wrong, far and near. Being short was a problem for Zacchaeus. If he was tall he could have a view of Jesus. God loves bad people as well as good people. When we do wrong it is sin. God wants us to choose the right way. Our sin takes us far from God and we get lost. When we repent of our sin we come near to God and are no longer lost, but found. We are no longer sad, but happy. There was an opposite change of behavior in Zacchaeus once he decided to follow Jesus. Before he was greedy. Now he became generous. A significant foundation of theological truth can be explained about the Good News just by going over opposite pairs of words – and when relayed in story form, it is an effective way of sharing Biblical knowledge. That’s how Jesus did it many times. If this is done on a regular basis you will be surprised over time at how much theological truth is being taught. Peace and respect can still prevail. I don't want fear of offending my Muslim friend to keep me from explaining the differences in our faiths.

Dear heavenly Father, Your Kingdom is opposite of the kingdom of earth in so many ways. Thank you for Jesus’ clear teaching and example. Amen.