What is a mime? No, not a MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension). A mime… an ancient dramatic entertainment representing scenes from life usually in a ridiculous manner without the use of speech (so says Mr. Webster).
Christians talk too much. I am particularly aiming this at our interactions with those who do not share our belief system. And why is this? There are probably endless reasons. Among the more innocuous is our simple desire to have people understand the truths that we have come to believe. And though this first desire is honest and certainly reasonable, it may also be an unintentional contributor to the vast polarization that our culture is currently experiencing.
But why? I think it has everything to do with how we see truth revealed and delivered. In most cases Christianity has spoken of truth as being proclamational… and I get that. The popular phrase I heard growing up was, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” I agree that truth is often dispensed and received that way. But not always. Just because you have responded to truth in this way doesn’t mean that your neighbor will. And this is where the polarization widens. We Christians try to knock our square-peg faith into the round-hole lives of people who “just can’t understand the truth”.
Is proclamation the only way of presenting truth? Is it even the best way (in the context of interacting with those outside of faith)?
Enter the mime. I have long been fascinated by mimes. For me they are the super actors. They communicate a scene, or for our purposes, a truth without using so much as a single word. I am particularly fond of a quote often attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words.”
As with any illustration or metaphor… they in some way fall short. The other side of this discussion is alluded to in this post’s lead picture. Doing this right is not only about not speaking. Christians must learn to listen. Unfortunately most people (not just Christians) put listening and hearing in the same box. You can’t have one without the other, true. But they are not synonymous. Hearing is physical. Listening is metaphysical. Jesus embodied this. Pay close attention to his interactions with people who did not yet believe. Often instead of merely proclaiming truth to them, he would ask questions. Take a closer look at his communication with the Samaritan woman in John 4.
Some of my favorite verse on this subject is found in the lyrics of a song by Josh Wilson appropriately titled “Listen.”
Well I live too loud and I talk too much
But somehow I don’t see it as such
Seems like what I love the most
Is the sound of my own voice
I pray my list and I say my piece
I check You off but I’m incomplete
Seems like what I’m missing most
Is the sound of Your voice
So why is it so hard for me
To shut my mouth and let you speak
Why do I feel the need to always keep on talking
Well I know I need to hear from You
I know what I have got to do
To find what I’ve been missing
I’ve got to learn to listen
A wise man hears before he speaks
He knows he doesn’t know everything
I wish that sounded more like me
But I have got so far to go
Why is my first reaction
To give my own opinion
Like I could tell You something
You don’t already know