This spring break my family and I took a trip to Costa Rica. The country and its people are beautiful and full of life. The experience of swimming in the ocean surrounded by mountains, feeding monkeys who we convinced a few times to jump on our shoulders in the forest, and watching wild dolphins jump and twirl joyfully in the air is something we will never forget.     

The language of Costa Rica is Spanish, a beautiful language to both hear and speak. It is also one of the love languages. At least that is what my high school Spanish teacher told me. We learned that English is hard to come by in the country because only the expensive private schools teach it meaning English is not widely or fluently spoken by most. Interacting with the Spanish speaking people daily got me thinking about the Gospel and whether we fluently speak it both inside and outside the church. Before you begin to think I got a little too much sun while away, hear me out on this. 

Spanglish Anyone? 

A day or so into the trip, I decided to tap into the couple years of Spanish I took in high school and give conversations a try. The Costa Rica people are gracious, generous and forgiving so I had little to lose. It was Spanglish at best (Spanish + English). My favorite phrase to say, with my best Spanish accent was “Como estas, mi amigo!?” (How are you, my friend!?). If I said anything more than “Hola” (Hello) such as my favorite phrase just mentioned, I almost always got the same reaction. The person I was speaking to would light up, seem a little surprised, smile, and ask in Spanish “Do you speak Spanish, sir?” or something similar. It was like they were excited, and a bit taken aback that this bearded Colorado mountain looking dude was speaking their native tongue! “Muy poquito” (very little) was my response and a bit of an overstatement since it’s been 30 years since I’ve tried to speak it and only know a few key words and phrases. A few times as the trip progressed, I even heard, “Tu Español es bueno” (Your Spanish is good), your pronunciation is good, and once “muy bueno” (very good) which was too kind of them, really, but certainly encouraged me to keep trying. Like I said, they are generous people.  

My proudest “Spanish-speaking “moment came toward the end of the trip when I ordered an Americano coffee. I spoke Spanish the whole time which was only a few key phrases and he spoke back to me in Spanish the entire time. It was a minute, or two conversation and he didn’t even ask me if I spoke Spanish. It was like I had him fooled. Uau (Wow)! Although I give myself a little too much credit since I ended up with an espresso instead of a cafe americano. Oh well, it was worth a shot!  

Speak Gospel! 

My fumbling but deeply satisfying attempts to speak Spanish on vacation made me wonder about the language Christians speak to those around us. Do we speak Gospel to each other inside and outside our faith? In other words, for followers of Christ, has the Gospel message so deeply penetrated your heart that others will be happy to talk to you and maybe even a bit surprised by what comes out of your mouth? Will you listen well and sound different than they expect? Full of grace and encouragement instead of complaint and criticism. Easy to forgive instead of holding a grudge. Speaking truth in love even if it hurts. Loving our enemies instead of hating them. Oh, how we and I need practice in this Gospel language. It is, after all, the ultimate love of language and language above all languages!   

What exactly do I mean by speaking Gospel language though? There are some clues I’ve already mentioned and some more practical tips I can share. First a short definition of the Gospel. Tim Keller says:  

The Gospel is the good news that God has accomplished our salvation for us through Christ in order to bring us into a right relationship with him and eventually to destroy all the results of sin in the world.  

If this is true, it is good news because it means that those who place their faith in Jesus are at peace with God and know that eventually everything will be right in a world without sin. We have nothing to prove and everyone to love. But how do we translate this into Gospel language with others?  

First, I think it means not talking at all. There are so few good listeners in the world that to truly listen to someone will be a surprise to them. To want to get to know them and their heart, just to get to know them and not for any gain, will be radically different than what they are used to. The world is transactional, but Christ is relational. The world yells, Jesus listens. Active listening is one way to speak Gospel without saying much at all. One way to show love and that you care. Active listening involves not thinking of what you want to say next, but listening, following up with a short summary of what you heard and then asking a follow up question. What you don’t say will speak more Gospel words to the person than your actual words, at least at first. 

Next, I think it means speaking encouragement and blessing into people’s lives. Building up instead of tearing down. A major theme of the Bible is that God’s people are blessed to be a blessing to others. If you’ve taken the first step of listening well, you will know what will bless that person. It could be a word of encouragement. Or an offer to pray for a need right then and there. It could be a hug and an “I’m here for you.” It may be lighting up to see someone saying, “I’m happy to see you!” It could be a generous gratuity and “well done” to someone in the service industry. Negativity, criticism and bad news sells so speaking good news to others in deed and word is a radically countercultural way to “speak Gospel.” 

Finally, speaking Gospel means to actually share the Gospel with others. Even if they already believe in it. To share that God loves them, sent his son Christ into the world to live a perfect life for them, die on the cross for their sins, and rise from the grave to conquer the power of sin, hell, and death for them and anyone who trusts in this. The good news that we get to spend eternity in a reconciled relationship with the God of the Universe who will eventually remove all evil from the earth! This gospel affects every part of life on this earth and spills over into our daily lives and decisions. For many, this is the hardest part of speaking Gospel. Most of us don’t preach sermons on the weekend or write blogs so this is often a one-on-one experience that can be tough to speak to those who are skeptical. But maybe you can invite them to study the book of John with you and offer to answer any questions. Be easy and invitational!  Maybe you invite them to a local church service, to watch one of your favorites on YouTube, or to read this blog and react. There are many ways to share the actual Gospel message that don’t have to be stressful. Just make it fit your personality. Remember it is a love language, so it is beautiful, merciful, and full of grace. As you notice others speaking it, or interested in it, encourage them like my Costa Rica friends did with me even if they aren’t as fluent as you.  

As we love others and speak the Gospel to them in loving and winsome ways, I believe they will react similarly to my Costa Rica friends. They won’t ask “Do you speak Gospel?” especially since I am creating that phrase for the purpose of this blog. But they will know that you care for them, will be a bit surprised, and will want to hear more. To maybe even want to learn more or begin to practice this language themselves. This love language that deep down they know exists and that they desperately want to be true. 

Pura Vida!   

There is a phrase we learned in Costa Rica that has become the unofficial national slogan for the country: “Pura Vida!” The English translation of the phrase is “pure life,” however, the real-life translation is much bigger and more beautiful than that. It has come to symbolize the simple, cheerful outlook and life of what some call the happiest country in the world. 

We met a sweet and fun young lady named Nanny (see photo below: Nanny and our son Connor) on our trip and had many laughs and good times with her. She worked at the resort where we stayed and was bi-lingual. We came to love her in the brief time we were there. Here is how she partly defines Pura Vida: 

“It is a phrase that I relate to the place where I come from ‘Costa Rica’ but beyond that, it means finding the beauty of everything that surrounds us in life. The simplest and smallest things but that in the end fill your heart a lot. Friends, family, your pets, a family dinner, hug the people you love, go for a walk through a beautiful place or meet the Krajewski Family with a beautiful energy, laugh, talk, and share experiences together in just a small moment in which life allowed us to coincide.”  

On our trip, it was common to say “Pura Vida!” instead of “Muy Bien” (very well) after someone asked you how you were doing. You could also use it for a variety of positive greetings. Translated into Gospel language, I believe the slogan could also be a way to describe the here and now of a relationship with Christ as well as the ultimate effects of the Gospel on this very earth, from Costa Rica to Colorado. If you will, the ultimate Gospel phrase we can say about the hope we have now and in the future. Because when Christ Jesus finally destroys all the results of evil in this world and sin itself, it will be paradise—it will finally be “Pura Vida!” The purest form of the good life that we get a little taste of from time to time until that day comes. If you believe it deep in your heart, tell others about the hope of that day. Speak Gospel, mis amigos! 

Vaya con Dios! 

Eric Krajewski
Director of Adult Ministries  

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