Lost in Translation

Recently while on a flight, I had the privilege of sitting next to a sweet little Chinese woman. I only know she was sweet because of what her daughter told me. The woman herself didn’t speak or understand any English other than to say, “I don’t speak English.”

It was a rather frigid flight, I swear the airlines enjoy playing freeze out with their passengers. As I sat curled inside the beach towel I had packed and my fuzzy socks which kept my toes all toasty, I couldn’t help but notice the little woman shivering. At that point I hadn’t heard a word come from her mouth, she would smile at me and quickly turn her head. It wasn’t long into the flight that the stewardess began to go around with blankets, not the free kind of course, but the ones that cost you an Alexander Hamilton. (That’s a ten dollar bill for those of you who are still trying to figure it out.) The little woman quickly snatched the blanket off the cart while it rolled by, but the stewardess stopped to ask for payment. But there was a problem: the Chinese woman didn’t speak or understand any English. It didn’t take the flight attendant long to get a bit flustered and become hateful. Eventually, she snatched the blanket back from the woman and walked away. I was heartbroken for the woman and the treatment she endured just because the flight attendant couldn’t understand her. Thankfully the woman hopped up and ran to the back of the plane where her daughter and son-in-law were seated and explained to them what was going on. Her son-in-law kindly took care of the situation and soon, she was snug as a bug in a rug in her new blanket. I spent the duration of my flight doing my best to help her understand when it was time to eat or drink. I didn’t want her to feel condemned or left out just because we didn’t understand her.  

As I sat there, God began to stir my heart about how often we as Christ followers have the same attitude as the stewardess. The ‘I don’t understand you, so it’s my job to condemn you’ attitude. Or a Pharisee-like attitude. The body of Christ has stood in judgment for so long that we’ve given ourselves a bad rap. We spend way too much time judging people’s actions because we don’t understand how or why they could do this or that, all the while forfeiting the love Jesus has called us to share. I’m reminded of the story of the adulteress woman.

John 8:2-11, “At dawn he went to the temple again, and all the people were coming to him. He sat down and began to teach them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center.  When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

Jesus stood up for this woman, not because He agreed with her lifestyle choice or because He understood why she would want to commit adultery. He was the only one left and the only one who could’ve rightfully slung a stone at her, but he didn’t. Jesus saw who this woman could be if she were loved and forgiven. He set the example for you and I. There is not one of us who can rightfully judge another. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). What we can do though is love one another, encourage one another, and pray for one another. We will never understand how someone could intentionally hurt others or make some of the horrible mistakes they make, but we can love them through it. We can show them a better way; we can show them the love of Christ.

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8


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