By Michael E. Brooks
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14 KJV).
After I finished a lesson on types of sermons intended for Nepali preachers and preacher students, the translator commented very favorably, indicating the material was relevant, needed, and not previously available to this particular audience.
But there was one caveat. “I had trouble translating the technical terms (like “expository preaching”) because we just don’t have words for those things in our language.”
One of the frustrations and limitations of working between different languages is that there is never a perfect overlap of vocabulary and grammar.
A concept that is easily expressed in the speaker’s native tongue may require long explanation in translation. Some words and ideas, because they do not represent common experience to the people of a given language, may be almost impossible to translate. How does one say “ice” to a dessert people who have never know cold weather or refrigeration?
Translation may refer to things other than language. When we travel to distant places we are translated from one hemisphere to another, and from one culture and civilization to another. Sometimes the translation is smooth and easy; at others it is a wrenching, difficult experience. Some things just do not translate well.
No such translation involves a greater distance or a more drastic change than the translation (or “conveyance” in other versions) from darkness to light. Physically a sudden emergence into bright light can surprise us and will cause pain. Spiritually the change is much more drastic.
The darkness of sin imprisons, cripples, and eventually destroys us. Like a plant denied the sun, the sin enslaved spirit withers and dies. But return to the light and life is rekindled. It is not always comfortable, and sometimes it is not easy, but the reward is great.
Like a foreign idea or previously unknown object, it can be very difficult to translate the thought patterns, speech and behavior of one used to darkness into those suitable for light. Those trapped in sin may believe that all things are as they are seen, felt and known in the realm of darkness.
It is hard to trust (have faith) in one who cannot be seen, and whose power has not been experienced. It may not be easy to step out into different patterns of life with new companions.
But God’s grace and power enable us to make the necessary adjustments. As illogical as it may seem, the broken, sin-torn soul is “translatable.” He or she can learn new things, and adjust to truth. We can learn new behaviors, and most of all we can begin new relationships. The greatest of these begins when we “walk in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7).