Why do we Read Scripture in Different Languages?

By Renelle Piñero

If you’ve been with any of the Living Stones Churches for a while, you’ve probably heard the lector (person reading scripture) read in a different language. It may seem odd at first. What’s the point of reading it in another language that not many people understand?

As a church, one of our values is Unity in Diversity. This means the church of God is to be a house of prayer and worship for all peoples and ethnicities. This is the heart of God and will be fully displayed around His throne in heaven. We long to see integrated racial diversity in every level and function of our churches so we can display Jesus’ Kingdom on earth.

With that in mind, here are three reasons we read the scripture in different languages:

1. To Get a Sound Snippet of Heaven
In the Book of Revelation, the author describes a glimpse into Heaven,
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9)

Heaven is already multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual. So much as our context allows – the church should look (and sound) like that.

The Bible has been translated into more than 250 different languages around the world. Along with each language having its different versions (think ESV, NIV, NLT). This means that all of God’s elect are spread out throughout all these languages! We have brothers and sisters worshipping Jesus in Heaven right now in languages we’ve probably never heard of before, and one day, we’ll be worshipping right beside them.

As God’s people, we are called to display Heaven here on earth. We can do this in so many ways, like through our relationships with each other, how we treat outsiders, how we care for the poor, etc. But one less common way is by not just hearing the Word, but having the Word wash over us. Even if we can’t understand it, there is still power in God’s truth going forward.  

What a special calling it is to give our world even the smallest sound snippets of Heaven.

2. To Experience the God-given Power of the Mother Tongue.
A "mother tongue" is defined as the language which a person has grown up speaking from early childhood. When we think of first or second generation immigrants in the United States, this is the native language spoken at home, but probably not at school. The non-english language spoken among family, close friends, and those who share a country of origin before their lives here now.

In the Book of Acts, the apostles receive the Holy Spirit and begin proclaiming the Gospel in different languages. The people are “amazed and astonished” by the power of language:

“And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Acts 2:8-11

Allow me to share my personal experience:
My parents were born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to America in their late 20s. They spoke Tagalog (official language of the Philippines) all their lives and learned English in Filipino schools. So, when I was born here in America, I heard both languages equally  – English at school, and Tagalog at home from my parents and grandparents.

Now, in Tagalog, the word "anak" means, "child." There are no words that differentiate between son and daughter. To this very day, my mom calls me “anak” frequently, especially when she has something important to tell me. Though we mostly speak English to each other, she would never try to get my attention by saying ,”my daughter,” or “my child,” but she would say “anak.”

When I read or hear God’s Word in Tagalog, and He calls me his “anak,” that resonates in my soul on a much deeper level than “my child.” There is a familial feel to it. It's intimate. It’s powerfully relational. It reminds me of the tender years of childhood. It brings back the sense of safety and gentleness in my childhood home.

It makes the idea of God being my Father more real to me, and I know others feel the same when they hear Him speak in their Mother Tongue.

3. To Honor the Imago Dei – all of them
As we look at the church, we recognize that every single person is made in the Imago Dei (the image of God.) Though we are unique in so many ways from skin color, hair color, language, background, and more, at our very core, God made us just like Him.

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27)

As His people scattered throughout the world, these differences were developed into a beautiful piece of art by the hands of the Creator. So, when we display His work, we are honoring the Imago Dei and giving God glory.

We can apply that right here where we live and worship. In this western state, God has brought a mosaic of people from different ethnicities, cultures, languages, and upbringings. In fact, the top five languages spoken at home in the state of Nevada are English, Spanish, Tagalog (Filipino), Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), and Korean.

God is not of one race and the faith is not of one country. All are made in His image. As a church that represents the Body of Christ, diversity is a non-negotiable.
About the Author:
Renelle Piñero is a Deacon at Living Stones Reno where she manages Digital Communications and assists with writing liturgy. Growing up in a Filipino-American household has given her a heart for pursuing Unity in Diversity. She also contributes to the Art team regularly with Spoken Word poems. She can be reached by emailing 
renelle@lschurches.com