As Christians around the world wait for Christmas, we're focusing on communities and language groups who are still waiting for the Bible in their own languages - over 1 billion bibleless people.
Christian traditions which use Advent candles lit the fourth candle this week to symbolize love. This is the last candle before Christmas Day and reminds us of the love God showed in giving his only Son to the world (John 3:16). Check out the previous Advent posts centering on hope, faith, and joy.
There are countless sermons on the biblical meaning of love and the different ways in which it's used in Hebrew, Greek, and English. Just think about the difference between "I love tacos," and "I love my mom!"
As Jesus taught, the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." So what would it look like to put these words into action for those who don't have the Bible in their language yet?
Love for the Bibleless
It's important to know who our neighbor is when "Love your neighbor" is one half of the most important commandment! Jesus' definition of "neighbor" is one part of his teaching that made him so radical. While many spiritual belief systems encourage us to love those in our communities, Jesus taught that our neighbors aren't those close to us, who look like us, believe what we believe, act how we act, or speak our language. Sometimes, like his story of the Good Samaritan, our neighbor is a complete stranger. All we know about them is that they're in need.
For many bibleless people, that's all we know. Some of these language communities have only a couple hundred speakers or fewer. Many of these languages haven't been studied or learned yet by any outsiders, leaving their perspectives, stories, fears, hopes, histories, and art completely unknown. And because all people are made in God's image, that's a reflection of God himself that the rest of us can't see.
Some may ask, is it really worth the time and expense to undertake an entire Bible translation project for only a small group of people?
My answer is back at the start of our discussion about love: John 3:16.
If God's love for the world was enough to give his only Son, then I can give my time, energy, skills, and resources to let more of that world know.
Maybe you can too.
For ideas on how God can use you to reaching the over 1 billion people still waiting to hear the truth of God's love in their language, check out these ideas for how to pray and where you might fit in the work of Bible translation.
Merry Christmas! May you and your community experience God's hope, faith, joy, and love this holiday season and always.