While teaching a class at work the other day, I was chatting with the colleague who was in charge of the larger training program. As is common in today’s environment, it was a remote call with my presentation being shared through the computer. However , since the audience was global, it was unlikely that we’d all be in the same room on short notice, anyway.
Anyway, the other guy (who is probably about the same age as me) got on the subject of read-along storybooks. In some ways, these narrated 45 RPM records weren’t that much different from what I was doing that morning. The audience could look at my “slides” (a funny term, since they haven’t been film slides or even transparent vellums in a long time) on the computer, while listening to me teach.
From that topic, the other guy mentioned that he had been listening to a CD (a compact disc, not certificate of deposit, although neither of these seem to be really popular right now), and the artist mentioned that those listening to it on cassette would need to flip over the tape at a certain point. My response was that 8-tracks didn’t have that problem.
For centuries, communication was largely in-person, or physical. This required being within at least shouting distance of the other person. Speaking to someone from a different part of the world probably meant that one of you had to spend time learning the other’s language, and then travel would be required for the two of you to talk in person.
Even today, face-to-face communication is complicated by the fact that people put on fronts and wear masks: not just COVID face coverings (although some people do sound muffled behind those), but in not really sharing what is on their heart.
In addition, it may take a while to connect what the other person is saying with our understanding of what they mean. Whether the other person doesn’t speak with the same dialect or accent as us, has a different vocabulary, or just has trouble expressing their thoughts, true communication can take some work as we remain focused on the other person long enough to really hear them.
After a period of electronic communication (telegraph, radio, telephone, etc.), communication is now often digital in today’s world. (No surprise, there.) This requires a cellular, internet, or wi-fi connection, and to be heard in the noise of other digital media, it takes a lot more than just cleaning up the static. Making a point requires fighting our way through all sorts of other voices clamoring for others’ attention.
When you consider how data is actually distributed over the Internet, though, our message is broken up into little packets, routed all over, and then re-assembled at the destination. It remains limited by connectivity, latency, and bandwidth, even if it no longer requires us to be in the same location as the other person. I appreciate automatic language translation from time to time, but it still isn’t perfect.
While God became personal when Jesus came to earth (and Jesus taught others face-to-face), and digital technology can be used to translate, teach, and share His word, God also offers us an even better spiritual connection – an improved line of communication that pre-dates the digital era. Consider these attributes of talking with God:
- There are never any messages lost in transit (Ephesians 3:12).
- There is no lag time or message corruption (see Psalm 44:21, and its context).
- It is enabled through Jesus Christ, who doesn’t charge a monthly fee for wireless or internet access (see the book of Hebrews).
- What we say is interpreted and annotated by the Holy Spirit, so there are never any translation issues (Romans 8:26-27).
So, even as we use physical, electronic, and digital communication today, let us remember that there’s a better option for the conversations that matter most.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.