YOU DEAF ~ OR CAN YOU HEAR WITH YOUR HEART?
Some thoughts ~ to challenge & encourage you.
A spectacular scene!
One of the most wonderful ‘pictures’ in the book of Revelation is in chapter 7. It seems the Apostle John was standing near God’s Throne looking out. He writes, “I looked and there before me was a huge crowd, too large for anyone to count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.” Then he even goes on to describe them. “They were standing in front of the Throne & in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes, & holding palm branches in their hands and they shouted, ‘Victory to our God, Who sits on the Throne, & to the Lamb’!”
Who these people actually are!
As one who has had a great interest in ‘world mission’ this ‘video from the Throne’, holds the most exciting promise of a totally ‘successful’ ministry of God, through faithful people all over the world! And what is so amazing is that this ‘picture’ becomes even more challenging as more and more ‘tribes, and people groups and languages’ are being found around the world! It seems there are more than 7,000 languages, and even more separate groups among them. A ‘group’ has been defined as a number of people who see themselves as a specific group. Reaching every ‘people group’ is God’s goal!
An ‘unseen’, but special, cultural group…
For a very large group of people world wide, one bond that they have with each other is the particular physical challenge that God has given them. The world uses the word ‘handicapped’ to describe them, simply because they have been entrusted by God, with the privilege of being a little ‘different’ – physically. Yet they are very special people, to God! Jesus showed this clearly in His attitudes to the ‘outcasts’ of his day, whether deaf, blind or diseased – and whatever the reason for it.
One unseen, but special cultural group.
In our society and communities, there is an often an unseen group of many thousands of normal people, who are called ‘deaf’. Like many of the hurdles God gives to some people, the extra burden for non-hearing people, is – (not only that through their deafness, they often find it hard to communicate with anyone), but also some people can have an unkind callous attitude of ‘deafness’ and blindness to them and their needs. Sadly, even Christians can be, (if not actually cruel), just as hurtful by ignoring deaf people! Like any slightly different cultural group or individual, with different languages, or customs, it does sometimes take a little extra - in time and effort, to relate to other cultural groups or individuals. Could it be that some of us have missed the opportunity of showing Christlike love to our Deaf friends, simply through ignorance?
A special language group!
Yet deaf people do have a language, which can and does mean a lot to most of them. It may be an official ‘language’ such as ‘American Sign Language, or ‘Signed Exact English’, or ‘British Sign Language’. Or it may be a means of communication with people in the country they live in, which has no ‘official’ sign language, in the so called ‘third world’. The wonderful love of God means that inspite of their deafness Christian deaf people can serve God in many ways. [Read about one great man’s ministry in Africa – see www.cmdeaf.org] The courage deaf persons show, and the numbers who excel in modern society is a great credit to them! Perhaps a corresponding effort should be made on our part in some cases to learn their language? We need to at least recognise it as a language and a culture as important as any other. We admire great ‘missionaries’ who have risked everything to minister to a ‘foreign culture,’ yet we can be blind to this cultural group, right where we live. Is God calling you to this work for Him?
The need of deaf people, to know God through the LORD Jesus as Saviour.
This is just as vital for the deaf, as any tribe or people or language group! Praise God, there have been many brought into God’s Kingdom by loving, caring people. One day they will hear the music of Heaven and the songs of the Angels, and they too will “Shout” in the language of all those before God’s throne! Will nay be there because of you?
Dangers for Deaf Christians.
There are in our society, a number of Cults, who in their desire for money, and power and influence through numbers of supporters, have found the Deaf community a cultural group they can easily exploit. We all long for fellowship, so the provision of large venues, with attractions of various kinds and especially gatherings with sign language members to lead or translate the messages, is a great draw-card for Christian Deaf people. We would like to take this opportunity to warn readers about some of the ‘Christian Cults’. A lot of their teachings may be perfectly right and Scriptural, but sadly almost any human idea can be seemingly ‘proved’ by twisting the true meaning of the Bible.
All doctrines must be true to the WHOLE message of the Word of God. Sometimes this means careful Bible study, or checking with a good Bible teacher, or for those with the Internet, we recommend sites like: www.watchman.org, or see some of our other Bible study articles, on this web site. The most important need for all people is to acknowledge our sinfulness and in repentance & simple faith, believe that God has provided all we need through the death of His Son, the LORD Jesus Messiah. “For you have been delivered” - [from the consequences of punishment for sin] “by grace through trusting, & even this is not your accomplishment [effort] but God’s gift!” See Ephesians 2: 4 – 10.
Deaf people also can rejoice in the modern technology available through the computer, to more easily write to others. Also to take the blessings offered by ‘Deaf Ministries’. [Google showed there are some 4,600.000 sites for deaf people, & there are 824,000 specific Christian sites! See www.christiansigns.co.uk, or www.deafmissions.com or www.deafchristian.com]
Lessons all hearing Christians need to learn.
The first word of the special statement that Jewish people say every day and to their last breath, starts with the word ‘Shema!’ = Listen! = Hear! It is found all through the words of Moses and the prophets and Yeshua/ Jesus and right to the last book, where Jesus repeats 7 times, “He that has ears to hear, let him HEAR!” The Jewish N.T. says it well, “Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying…” The reality is almost all of us do have ears, and we can hear some things, but we do not ‘take it in’, and therefore we do not act on what we hear. It doesn’t seem an accident of English that the word ‘heart’ has the word ‘ear’ in it, because it is only what our heart’s attitude is, that will make it possible to hear the heart cries or even the daily heart needs of our deaf friends. Therefore every congregation should do all it can to make the messages they give available to non-hearing members of their group. More and more people are becoming skilled in sign language translation, and should be utilised as much as possible.
Can you imagine going to church and not hearing anything?
Our friend wrote it this way. “I have to depend on the sign language interpreter wherever I go. Unfortunately many churches are not even aware that there is an American Sign Language & culture; so they do not think about using this.” There is no substitute - as, if a hearing device was any use – you can be sure the person would be using his or her own hearing aids!
[Words of songs or some written sermon headings are only part of the answer.]
Deaf people have crossed the huge barrier to learn today’s culture, & language and how to read and write. Therefore to expect understanding of old English words and phrases, such as in the King James Version of the Bible is very difficult. [Even hearing people can find this almost impossible in some parts of the Bible, especially, now that our language has changed so much!] So - attractive, loving and contemporary presentations of the message is SO important. Be very sure, the deaf persons, themselves will be glad to help with ideas and resources. ‘Empathy’ means putting yourself in their place, so you will have a better idea of their needs. This is a Biblical demand, in actual fact summarising the whole of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ with Jesus’ words, “so in everything, do to others what you would have them do for you, for this sums up the ‘Law & the Prophets.” Matthew 7: 12.
Praying for a new ‘heart’ attitude.
Perhaps God would have us go and ask forgiveness from a deaf neighbour or friend, and find out what they would like you to share together? Deaf people already know that they have a lot to be patient about, accepting what God has allowed in their lives, and then even forgiving those who are not as understanding as they should be. Hearing people may in fact be the ‘handicapped ones’ by having a wrong heart attitude. God can forgive & change it.
Here is a poem by a Deaf friend, Donna Shinton, of USA, written about 1976
God wants you, deaf and hearing persons,
To ‘hear’ His wonderful words of love.
Do not let your hearts be deaf,
Let your hearts be hearing!
God sent His only begotten Son to the Earth
To show you His truth & His love,
His Son, Jesus Christ, died
And rose for you all.
Is it not great and wonderful,
The things He has done for you?
Do not let your hearts be deaf,
Or reject how great He is.
How do you feel hearing persons,
If you can’t hear beautiful music
Down here on the Earth
If the sound ‘goes off’?
How do you feel Deaf Persons,
If exciting TV you cannot hear,
When captions and interpreters
Are simply not there?
The LORD wants you to hear
How wonderfully He has made you.
Physical deafness is only temporary,
But spiritual deafness lasts forever!
Ask Him now to forgive your sin
By praying to the LORD to come in,
So Christ Jesus’ love in your heart
Will turn your deafness into hearing.
THAT’S HOW YOUR HEARTS CAN BE HEARING!
Jesus gave a little sermonette at the Temple one day, recorded by
John the beloved disciple, in chapter 5: 24 – 30.
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word, & believes Him Who sent Me has eternal Life and will not be condemned; he will cross over from death to life.
I tell you the truth, the time will come when the dead will hear the voice of the
Son of God and those who hear will live!
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when those who are in their graves will hear His voice
and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil,”
[maybe ignoring deaf friends needs] “will rise – to be condemned.”
And Jesus added His own response:
“By Myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, &
My judgement is just, for I seek, not to please Myself but Him Who sent me.”
May we have the grace to have the same attitude of heart…