I ran across a 2012 news story about a Wisconsin teacher who chastised a student for speaking a language other than English, reportedly telling 12 year old Miranda Washinawatok:
“You are not to speak like that! How do I know you’re not saying something bad? How would you like it if I spoke in Polish and you didn’t understand?”
The student’s offensive words? She was teaching her friends how to say “Hello” and “I love you”.*
A child might not know what’s going to happen from day to day – none of us do – but they know if they are in a place where they are loved. Whether it’s the home, classroom or playground, children who are loved are children who feel safe. That’s what makes the teacher’s actions so tragic. She unwittingly made the classroom a place where love could not be shared and expressed. She made the classroom a place that isn’t safe.
The Bible tells us we are to greet each other in love, and that this love is how people will know we belong to Jesus.
Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (1 Peter 5:14.)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35.)
Love is how the gospel of Jesus – the good news that God loves us and wants us to be his people – is best expressed. In fact, the gospel and love cannot be separated. Love and faith and hope are all part of the gospel itself and it is ingrained in the lives of God’s people.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people — the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. (Colossians 1:3-6.)
This is what the gospel looks like – lives of love and faith and hope. That is the gospel you have been given, and God is working in you to realize the fullness of that good news. (Philippians 2:13.)
And when it comes to spreading this good news, there is no language it cannot be said in.
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. (Revelation 14:6.)
So don’t be reluctant to use whatever language you have to tell people “Hello” and “I love you.” And if you want to know how to say it in Menominee, here’s what Miranda Washinawatok was telling her friends: Posoh, ketapanen.
Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15.)
*My thanks to Olivia Faix for linking the news article on her Facebook page.