FIRST-PERSON: The Great Barrier Reach
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- London's far-famed British Museum has more than six million artifacts either on display or in storage. The object that's most popular with tourists is a 1700-pound block of black granite that British archaeologists brought from the town of Rosetta, Egypt, to London at the beginning of the 1800s. It's called the Rosetta Stone, and it dates to antiquity. The Rosetta Stone bears an inscription in three languages -- Hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Greek. By comparing the inscriptions, scholars were able to decipher Hieroglyphics and overcome the barriers to understanding this strange picture-writing.
Now, forget about the British Museum a moment and let me tell you another story. Years ago, a man named Allen Stolzfus moved to Germany and picked up the German language with remarkable ease by being immersed in the culture. He had to learn basic words and phrases to get along, and he found the process exciting. But later, in the 1980s, when he tried to learn the Russian language in a classroom setting, he had much less success. Wanting to replicate his German experience, Stolzfus and his brother-in-law created a software that would make language-learning natural and fun. They wanted to create the next best thing to actually being immersed in another language group. In a flash of brilliance, they named their company Rosetta Stone.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I take away from the Rosetta Stone story is this: If you really want to understand something, you must experience it and immerse yourself in it. Mr. Stolzfus learned German by plunging into the culture where he had to sink or swim on his own. By living among the people, walking in their streets, eating in their cafes, visiting their homes and offices, he made friends and learned to say "Guten Morgen" and "auf Wiedersehen." In so doing, he reached across the barriers of culture and language.
What Jesus did
In a miniature way, that's a sample of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us. The greatest barrier reach in history was when Jesus Christ left the ivory palaces of heaven to immerse Himself in the dusty streets of Galilee. He walked among us, communicated with us in our language, and connected with us. He broke bread with us, shared our tears and fears, visited our homes, and called us His friends. Jesus Christ spanned the barrier between earth and heaven, between God and humanity, between righteousness and sin, between time and eternity.
I like the way Ken Taylor paraphrased 1 Timothy 2:5 in the old Living Bible: "God is on one side and all the people on the other side, and Jesus Christ, Himself man, is between them to bring them together."
That's the greatest barrier reach in history because the gulf between God's holiness and our sinfulness is wider than a billion Grand Canyons, deeper than a million bottomless pits, and only one person could bridge the chasm. Jesus said, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven" (John 3:13). Jesus became a human suspension bridge who came to seek and to save those who are lost.
What we can do
In John 20:21, Jesus said, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (NASB). Jesus is our Redeemer, but He's also our mentor and model. Following His example, we're to devote ourselves to the Great Barrier Reach.
As we seek to win others to Him, we encounter a lot of barriers -- like language, our own self-centeredness, the fear of rejection, various financial obstacles, and the discouragements Satan throws our way. It costs a lot to immerse yourself in someone else's problems, their pain, their world, their needs. It took a lot for the Good Shepherd to seek His one missing lamb. It took a lot for Jonah to encircle Nineveh with the message he was given. It took a lot for Peter to go to the Gentiles, and for Paul to stand before emperors. It will take the sacrifice of each of us if we are to break the barriers and reach the world with the Gospel.
But the assignment is clear -- now is the time for us to reach out across the Great Barrier Reach.