Brother, I’ve never read the Qur’an,” said my South Asian friend. Having regarded him as a devout Muslim, I was incredulous.
“What do you mean you’ve never read the Qur’an?” I began. “That’s your book!”
“Well, I don’t speak Arabic.” He had me there. While translations of the Islamic Scriptures abound in many languages, the Qur’an is not truly the Qur’an if not in Arabic. Interestingly, while my friend and other South Asians like him could not read their own holy book, they could read mine!
Once while visiting a different part of South Asia, I gave a copy of the Book of John to a young Muslim man. This Book, translated into his mother tongue, was warmly received. When I returned to that same area some time later, I went to check in on my Muslim friend. I thought that perhaps he would have read a few chapters of John by then. When I asked him what he thought of this Book, he replied with excitement, “Brother, I’ve read it four times!” As this young man read the Book of John, he encountered a God who speaks his language.
The sacred Scriptures of the New Testament, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were written in the common language of first-century Greeks. Christians throughout the centuries have embraced the clear message of both the Old and New Testaments that God is for all people (Isa. 49:6; Rev. 5:9) On the heels of this conviction, Bible translators have worked tirelessly to render the Sacred Text in diverse tongues.
In these Scriptures, people from every language group experience a God who does not superimpose a foreign culture upon them, but instead redeems and elevates their way of life as they join His worldwide Body. Admission here requires no language school or culture class. In Christ, there is “neither Jew nor Greek...all are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Without promoting one cultural group over another, Christianity is the only major world religion that truly embraces racial and cultural diversity.
In contrast to their Christian counterparts, my South Asian Muslim friends pray in a language foreign to them. Like Hagar in the wilderness, they long to meet the God who sees, hears, and speaks to them (Gen. 16:11-13).
Which language does this God speak? Theirs…and yours!