1 Corinthians 13:1 (New International Version)
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
A woman was explaining her theory of putting her children to bed: "I never tell bedtime stories that begin with 'Once upon a time,'" she said. "If I really want to put them to sleep, I start off with, 'Now, when I was your age...'" It's nice to understand people so well that we know just what to say! Here is a mother who could speak her children's language.
The story is told of the most famous elephant in the world -- a huge, beautiful and gentle beast named Bozo. Children extended open palms filled with peanuts for the Indian elephant, who gently plucked them from little hands and seemed to smile as he ate his treats.
But one day, for some inexplicable reason, Bozo changed. He almost stampeded the man who cleaned his cage. He charged children at the circus and became incorrigible. His owner knew he would have to destroy the once-gentle giant.
In order to raise money for a new elephant, the circus owner held a cruel exhibition. He sold tickets to witness Bozo's execution and, on the appointed day, his arena was packed. Three men with high-powered rifles rose to take aim at the great beast's head.
Just before the signal was given to shoot, a little, stubby man in a brown hat stepped out of the crowd and said to the elephant's owner, "Sir, this is not necessary. Bozo is not a bad elephant."
"But he is," the man argued. "We must kill him before he kills someone."
"Sir, give me two minutes alone in his cage," the visitor pleaded, "and I'll prove to you that you are wrong. He is not a bad elephant."
After a few more moments of discussion (and a written statement absolving the circus of liability if the man should be injured), the keeper finally agreed to allow the man inside Bozo's cage. The man removed his brown derby and entered the cage of the bellowing and trumpeting beast.
Before the elephant could charge, the man began to speak to him. Bozo seemed to immediately quiet down upon hearing the man's words. Nearby spectators could also hear the man, but they could not understand him, for he spoke a foreign language. Soon the great animal began to tremble, whine and throw his head about. Then the stranger walked up to Bozo and stroked his trunk. The great elephant tenderly wrapped his trunk around the man, lifted him up and carried him around his cage before carefully depositing him back at the door. Everyone applauded.
As the cage door closed behind him, the man said to Bozo's keeper, "You see, he is a good elephant. His problem is that he is an Indian elephant and understands one language." He explained that Bozo was frustrated and confused. He needed someone who could speak his language. "I suggest, sir, that you find someone in London to come in occasionally and talk to the elephant. If you do, you'll have no problems."
The man picked up his brown derby and walked away. It was at that time that the circus owner looked carefully at the signature on the paper he held in his hand -- the note absolving the circus of responsibility in the case he was injured inside the elephant's cage. The statement was signed by Rudyard Kipling.
People also become frustrated and angry when they are not understood. But great relationships are formed by parents who learn to speak their children's language; lovers who speak each other's language; professionals who speak the language of their staff and clients. When people understand that YOU understand, that you empathize with their heartaches and understand their problems, then you are speaking their language! It is the beginning of true communication.
Dear Lord we pray that we would learn to speak their language. Help us be able to share your love in a manner they understand. In Jesus’ name, Amen.