In 1 Peter 2:11, the Apostle Peter uses the fascinating phrase, “since you are resident aliens and foreigners in this world” to describe his readers. Although the passage itself has much to learn from, I currently have experienced some incredible insight as a foreigner living in Kraków. As an American, there are things that I innately fail to understand that a Polish person would not even think twice about. It is not my fault that I do not know. It’s not their fault I don’t know either. I’m not right nor am I wrong. I am, in short, often times confused at what is happening because I am still learning this world I’m living in. Let me give an example. As a Texan, I feel an obligation to have a grill. As a person that is not great at waiting, it needs to be a propane grill. Having purchased my grill from Allegro (the Polish Amazon) for a great price, and assembling it over a matter of days (so many pictures to follow), I was ready to grill something. So I went to a gas station that sold propane. They told me in not so many words, no gas. Second one… no gas. Now let me point out that I can see the propane containers, have parked next to them, and have been told by others that you can buy propane at the gas station. I go to Tesco (like Walmart) because you can buy just about everything there. I have a friendly conversation with the gas attendant by the propane containers in which neither one of us know what the other is saying. The result is I drive away with no gas. I’ll try one last time. Luckily, the next gas station attendant spoke just a little bit of English, to which I learned that I can only exchange an empty container for a full propane bottle. After she sends me to the wrong store for the bottle, that store sends me to the right place, Castorama (think Lowe’s or Home Depot). I buy a brand new pretty propane bottle and immediately exchange it with them for a very used bottle that has… propane. The actual purchase of propane took about 5 minutes. Finding the information that I needed to get to those 5 minutes… about 3 hours after you include driving, standing in line, looking confused, etc. Although just a funny story of cultural differences, in light of 1 Peter 2’s pronouncement that as a follower of Jesus we are foreigners in this world, there are some Kingdom parallels to think about.
Language MattersThis was weeks ago, and honestly, if I would have had the very limited grasp of language I have now, I probably could have figured out at gas station #1 that I needed to buy a bottle first to exchange. But since my language and their language was not the same, it lead to a complete breakdown and I could not become a part of their system. Is our language different? When people engage with us, do people look at us with a little bit of bewilderment at how we speak?. When we speak, is there a bit of Jesus coming out of us?
“He has so much hope, so much joy”. “He dreams impossible, ridiculous dreams. But seems to have the faith that they will happen.” “He has such confidence, such peace. It doesn’t make sense.”****I’d like to give a full disclaimer that I am not talking about the Christianese we can easily slip into which no one has a clue what you are talking about. When we speak and think with a Kingdom mindset, people are attracted to it. When we speak Christianese, people are just confused. In Kraków, I hope and am working at grasping the Polish language one day. In reality, I know that I probably will always be understood as a foreigner because my accent will give me away. As followers of Jesus, we better always have a Kingdom accent.