As an English teacher in China, communication could be a challenge—not only because of the difficulty of the Chinese language, but also because of how English could be used there. I would often come across English signs that were, well, creative in their use of the language. Foreigners called it “Chinglish.” Some examples:
“Danger, No Nearing” (beside a steep drop-off along a mountain path)
“Please pass by tums, no crowding” (on a pedestrian walkway)
“The grass smile to you, please go around” (on a restricted area in a park)
And my favorite: “Trip and fall down carefully” (on a freshly-mopped floor)
The communication wasn’t the clearest, but the point was usually made.
In one of our New Testament texts for Sunday, September 14, Peter urges his congregations to be careful and clear in their communication–not on their signs, but in their words and deeds regarding who they are and what they stand for: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Peter’s churches were being looked upon suspiciously, as a kind of cult engaged in superstitious or anti-social behavior. Hence clear communication about who these “Christians” were, and why they lived as they did, was imperative.
Our Anabaptist forbears communicated their convictions clearly—so clearly that many of them were tortured and killed.
Today we are not burned at the stake for our beliefs. In fact, our culture allows us religious people to believe pretty much anything, so long as we keep it to ourselves and do not try to communicate it too loudly.
Still, Peter’s challenge to the church to clearly communicate its convictions remains. What does The First Mennonite Church communicate about who it is, what it believes, and why it lives as it does? Is our witness such that outsiders will be curious and ask us about the hope that is in us?