Worship transcends words
Worship at a recent chapel included parts which were not in English, which inexplicably made many students uncomfortable. | Aaron Fooks/THE CHIMES
Have you ever taken a moment to think about how many different languages are spoken around the world? According to some estimates, some 7,000 of them exist. As humans, we have this amazing gift of communicating through language. It sets humanity apart from the rest of creation. However instead of appreciating the uniqueness and beauty found in each language, we have turned it into a competition of sorts. Language becomes an extension of our worth. If we speak a certain language we think ourselves superior to those who do not.
Our campus was forced to confront this perceived superiority in the specific area of worship. At a recent chapel, worship integrated languages other than English, confusing many in attendance.
PRACTICING WHAT WE PREACH
Ironically, our campus strives to present diverse cultural viewpoints and works to create programs which allow the student body to appreciate this diversity. But this instance of multiculturalism made us uncomfortable. That other countries speak different languages could not have been a surprise, but perhaps we favor English to an inappropriate degree. Yes, English is the official language of the United States, and by extension the student body, but that does not make it a superior language.
To a degree, information presented in a language other than English will not be readily understood by the student body. So any program which presents information in a different language must have a different goal. Perhaps then, presenting worship in a language not readily spoken by the student body attempted to communicate something beyond the meaning of the words.
The Biola community seems to approve of most voices who earnestly praise God. Even when they sing a little off-key or out of tune, true earnestness makes up for anything lost in the musicality. We enjoy stepping back, closing our own mouths and just listening to the worship as the voices of the student body or congregation harmonize with the worship band.
At that point, the words themselves do not really seem to matter all that much. The meaning behind them and the praise they offer up to God in one united chorus of different voices creates something meaningful. They create a feeling that transcends the words of the song. This togetherness of voices should extend beyond those who sing in the same language.
Even without speaking the same language, the sincerity of one’s belief can be demonstrated through worship. Singing the same songs in different languages emphasizes the unity we all have in Christ while highlighting the beauty in our differences as well, neither detracting from the other.
This concept can help make us feel closer to the people singing in other languages. We believe that God wants us to join together and love him as a community. Instead of letting the other languages distract us, we should let them excite us. When we think more about how people can come together and worship as one body and less about how we cannot sing the words of a song, it shifts our understanding of the purpose of worship.