I have been in many hotel rooms where I have been greeted by a Gideon Bible. It is truly a welcome sight and, frankly, has become a familiar old friend. My favorite part of the Gideon Bible is the front where John 3:16 is translated into many other languages. I have, on countless occasions, read as many of those passages as possible. Obviously, I didn’t even attempt trying to figure out the oriental or Arabic scripts! However, knowing that one verse is there for any spiritually-weary traveler who speaks those languages brings such comfort to my heart. “For God so loved the world…”
So, imagine my surprise last night at the European Leadership Forum’s opening ceremony when the host asked over 700 of us from forty different countries to recite, in our native language, the words of John 3:16. He had us do it twice. As this was happening I walked around to hear as many languages as possible. What a joy to see my brothers and sisters in Christ from the four corners of Europe recite this amazing passage.
I am certainly not a multi-linguist like many of my European friends. However, I went on the web and did my best to write out John 3:16 in some of these languages I heard. (Note: My apologies to you non-English-speaking folks, in advance, if I have somehow selected a poorer translation than you would have chosen. But catch the heart of what I am trying to say.)
• It wasn’t hard to miss the distinct sound of the many folks from our host country, the Polish people—“Tak bowiem Bóg umiłował świat, że Syna swego Jednorodzonego dał, aby każdy, kto w Niego wierzy, nie zginął, ale miał życie wieczne.”
• Of course, given my heritage, I had hoped to hear the familiar sound of my Italian brethren—“Infatti Dio ha talmente amato il mondo da dare il suo Figliuolo unigenito, affinchè chiunque crede in Lui non perisca, ma abbia la vita eterna.”
• Instead, where I was seated allowed me to hear the very similar sounds of another romance language, Romanian—“Fiindcà atât de mult a iubit Dumnezeu lumea, cà a dat pe singurul Lui Fiu, pentru cà oricine crede în El, sà nu piarà, ci sà aibà viatza vecinicà.”
• Having been raised in Canada, it pleased me to know that there in that large room were my brothers and sisters in French-speaking parts of Europe as they, too, poured out their hearts—“Car Dieu a tant aimé le monde qu’il a donné son Fils unique, afin que quiconque croit en lui ne périsse point, mais qu’il ait la vie éternelle.”
• I know from the roster of attenders that there were also Spanish-speaking believers—“Porque de tal manera amó Dios al mundo, que dió a su Hijo unigénito, para que todo aquel que cree en él, no perezca, mas tenga vida eterna.”
• Of course, how could anyone miss the distinct sound of the Germanic people—“Denn also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, daß er seinen eingeboren Sohn gab, auf daß alle, die an ihn glauben, nicht verloren werden, sondern das ewige Leben haben.”
• I would also be remiss if I didn’t also mention some of our Northern European friends. I would have liked to hear our Swedish brothers and sisters reciting—“För Gud älskade människorna så mycket att han gav dem sin ende Son, för att de som tror på honom inte ska gå under utan ha evigt liv.”
• My heart was especially touched to know that in light of the intense political turmoil in Eastern Europe there was a unity of spirit as Ukranians, Moldovans, Belarussians and Russian believers recited the passage together—in Russian.
And, of course, I could go on. From North to South, East to West, a scattered people whose languages were divided at Babel (cf. Genesis 11) were now gathered in a room and united at the Cross. It brings to mind the beauty of another familiar passage—Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”
I invite you to join their united chorus. It’s your turn to speak these life-changing words in John 3:16. Do it out loud, in any language you want. And join with us in declaring that these words are the foundation of our hope and the message we will, until the day we die, bring to a lost world: