Lost in Translation
I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. – 2 John 1:12 (NLT)
The era of silent movies provided a popular form of cheap entertainment that overcame language barriers for millions of immigrants coming to America in the early 20th century. Besides subtitles and captions, audiences of diverse languages could follow a film narrative through the physical presence and emotive expressions of the actors, sometimes with musical accompaniment.
The advent of “talkies” posed problems for many silent movie stars, because their natural speaking voices didn’t match their silent film personas. When talkies came, many silent actors unable to speak flawless, unaccented English were either cast in small supporting roles, or not cast at all. Other such actors had their voices dubbed, to the extent that audiences only knew and loved them through voices that were not their own.
Today when watching a movie, I often find myself paying closer attention to actors who effectively convey thoughts and sentiments without words. I’ve noticed in fact that the more profound the thought or sentiment needing expression, the less verbiage is required.
Small wonder then that the writer of Second John determined that everything needing to be said to the Church could not be written. Deeper meanings often escape the limitations of dialogue. Presence is not totally captured by even the very best verbal articulation.
Saint Francis of Assisi is often credited with saying: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
When our words are made flesh in the love we share and in the service we render, the world will know everything we have to tell them about Christ.
Lord, we may not pass the screen test or make the voice cut, but speak through us. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.