“‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’” (John 15:5).
When my wife and I watch period films featuring actors with strong British accents, we often turn on the subtitles to understand what they are saying. And even with subtitles, the king’s English sometimes flies over our American-speaking heads.
Lately, as the community has been mandated to wear masks in public spaces, I’ve been thinking how great it would be to turn on subtitles as I try to communicate with masked grocery store clerks and restaurant servers. We all end up repeating ourselves multiple times, raising our voices louder and louder.
Wearing a mask doesn’t lend itself to having a conversation beyond a few words, and besides muffling voices, masks cover facial expressions.
So much of how humans communicate with each other is nonverbal. It is not what we say, but how we say it.
Nowadays, I can’t tell if the person who makes a comment to me in line at the county clerk’s office is being friendly or sarcastic. Are they scowling or smiling? I mean, I can probably assume they are scowling—it is the county clerk’s office after all—but what if they are smiling, which would be my cue to social distance myself from the crazy person because who smiles while waiting in line? Is crazy contagious?
I’m just kidding, county clerk people. I actually got in and out pretty quickly last month.
So how can we be salt and light in the world when our ability to communicate in person is limited or impaired?
First John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” Or, as the old saying goes: “Actions speak louder than words.”
When we stay connected to the Vine as branches, we will bear good fruit that includes love, joy, patience, gentleness and kindness.
“‘No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me’” (John 15:4).
Look for ways to share your fruit with others.
>What has most frustrated you about wearing a mask and why?
>Can you think of non-verbal ways to show the love of Christ to the people you meet?
>Have you ever done a random act of kindness? What was the outcome?