But you will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. — Acts 1:8
One of the things that has interested me in conversing with Bible translators is their intense diligence. These men and women will spend hours and days over a single verse until they get just the wording that they believe conveys the right meaning. Many of them are volunteers, most are not that well paid. They go into distant countries, learn new languages, some invent alphabets, and then they slave over the documents trying to produce a translation of the Bible.
Why do they do all this? Generally, they do it because they believe they are handling God’s words of life and that people will learn about God through the words that they put on paper. They see it as an tremendous responsibility.
Those of us who are not in the trenches with them find it easy to criticize. I can spend a few hours with the work product of years, comparing key texts with Greek or Hebrew, and then come forth and pronounce it good or bad. I try not to do that. I try to give credit where it is due and disagree respectfully, but there are those who find it very easy to criticize something they themselves are not interested in doing.
I was reminded of the type of effort involved in a telephone conversation yesterday. We were discussing the manuscript of my forthcoming book, and I commented that in reality, a Christian putting God’s word into action may be the only translation some people will ever read. Now that is not original with me, though I can’t find the original source. (I’d be delighted if someone told me who first said that via the comments or e-mail.) But it set me to thinking again.
I have spent the past week working on details of the manuscript and internal format for a book, one that will represent one aspect of my teaching. Yet I work over sentence after sentence, asking myself how well this will convey the ideas I want to convey. I know it will not be perfect. Nowhere close to that, I’d imagine. But I want it to be the best I can make it, given time and resources. There in my own sphere I’m a bit like those Bible translators, asking time after time whether a passage truly conveys the right meaning.
But in our text today Jesus says, â€œYou will be my witnesses.â€ That’s â€œYOU!â€ It’s not the Bible translation that I choose, or the books that I write. All of those things have an impact, but the key is that I am to be the witness.
I think I’d rather have my Bible be the witness. That’s a bit easier. I’d even be happier if my witness was limited to the printed word. I tend to make humorous small mistakes in speaking or in first draft writing. Once my writing is editing and printed, it stays the same, and at least it doesn’t introduce new mistakes.
My life? Not so much! But God comes around at me again, and the Holy Spirit convicts me with Acts 1:8: â€œYou are my witness.â€ How accurate a picture of the gospel do people get from looking at me? Do they learn about Jesus by seeing the way I live. Do I have a forgiving spirit that will teach them about grace? Do I believe in redemption so much that I will give them repeated chances? Do I care about both truth and love so much that I always speak the truth in love?
Think of it this way: Do I put the kind of effort into the translation of the gospel message in my life that those translators put into their Bible versions?
Think about it! But while you do, also remember God’s graceâ€”to you, even when your witness falls short. Be a witness to God’s grace in your life as well. Where you and I are weak, He is strong.