I know enough Spanish to be dangerous. I found that out on a mission trip to Mexico a few years ago.
I was eating breakfast with a table full of Mexicans, and I was practicing my Spanish. I had learned to say, “No mas frijoles, por favor” (No more beans, please.) I thought I was communicating well. Then I said in Spanish, “I’m stupid,” trying to joke about something I had done. The entire table suddenly got deathly quiet. I didn’t realize that in English “stupid” is a mild word, but the Spanish equivalent is a very vulgar term. Quickly the translator had to explain that the preacher did not intend to use profanity.
A Spanish-speaking pastor told me another example of a gringo blunder. An Anglo woman attended a Spanish-speaking church with her husband, who was Hispanic. She didn’t know any Spanish, so she sat silently until the service was over. But she enjoyed being with the people, and she enjoyed the great meal that the congregation always had after worship. The woman wanted to speak some Spanish, so she asked the pastor how to say, “I’m hungry.” He told her to say, “Tengo hambre.”
The woman waited for the service to end. As the pastor said his final prayer, she decided to shout out her newly-learned Spanish phrase, and let everybody know she was ready to eat. However, instead of “Tengo hambre,” she shouted, “Tengo hombre!” which means, “I’ve got a man!” Several members looked at each other and said, “I thought she was already married.”
Unfortunately, sometimes the things we say in church are just as confusing, even when everybody speaks the same language. Too often churches confuse the simple gospel message, especially when they make it sound like a person must perform a long list of tasks in order to earn salvation. The apostle Paul says in Colossians 4:4 that we should pray for the preacher to make the gospel “as clear as possible.” So let me be perfectly clear: Jesus Christ died to save you and me from sin. We cannot pay for our own sin, because none of us are good enough. We must trust in Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for our sin. When we trust in Jesus’ death, then Christ comes into our lives and changes us. But we cannot save ourselves. We can only get to heaven by the grace of God.
¡Gracias, señor Jesús Cristo! (Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ!)
Copyright 2007 by Bob Rogers. Read this column each Thursday for a mix of religion and humor. You can read more “Holy Humor” at www.fbcrincon.com.