Did you ever talk to someone and wonder if you were getting through? I've had that thought—especially when I've conducted a series of training events in a foreign country. Communication depends a great deal on having a common base for reference since words are merely symbols for concepts. In my study recently, I ran across a great chart to help us understand how the same words can mean different things to people of two different generations.
||Accepting others without agreeing with or sharing their beliefs or lifestyle choices.
||Accepting that each individual's beliefs, values, lifestyles, and truth claims are equal.
||Giving due consideration to others' beliefs and lifestyle choices without necessarily approving them.
||Wholeheartedly approving of others' beliefs or lifestyle choices.
||Embracing people for who they are, not necessarily for what they say or do.
||Endorsing and even praising others for their beliefs and lifestyle choices.
||Certain things are morally right and wrong as determined by God.
||We have no right to judge another person's view or behavior.
||Preferences of color, food, clothing style, hobbies, etc., are personally determined.
||Preferences of sexual behaviors, value systems, and beliefs are personally determined.
||Everyone has the right to be treated justly under the law.
||Everyone has the right to do what he or she believes is best for himself or herself.
||Being free to do what you know you ought to do.
||Being able to do anything you want to do.
||An absolute standard of right and wrong.
||Whatever is right for you.
McDowell, J., and Bellis, D. (2005) The Last Christian Generation, Green Key Books, Holiday FL., 22-23
You might want to consider this a bit as you seek to communicate and minister to what I now call the "pre-Christian" youth culture (people whom God has not yet called to Himself). Yes, words are just communication symbols, but if you are talking to someone who defines them differently, the Gospel message may not be clearly understood either.
Jerry Thacker, B.A., M.A., is President of Right Ideas, Inc., and Publisher of At the Center. He can be reached at email@example.com.