Lend Me Your Ears

“Brother-in-law, can I borrow your axe?”

“Of course you can. Here it is.”

My wife and I came prepared to be generous to our friends and relatives-by-adoption in the Canela village of Brazil. One day I loaned my only axe to my brother-in-law next door. He happily left to cut down trees to clear his field. He had not yet brought the axe back when, a few week later, we needed to return to the city for a workshop, but we trusted him to look after the it.

Six weeks later when we returned to the village I saw my brother-in-law and reminded him about the axe. “I will need it tomorrow,” I said, “Can you bring it back tonight?”

“What?!” he was astonished. “You still remember that axe? After all these months, you still want it back?” That’s when I learned that among the Canelas time erases all negative things: hurt feelings, disagreements, or family quarrels. All the bad feelings are deleted simply by letting time go by. And apparently, that included the borrowing of axes too.

Our culture is so different: When we loan something to a friend, we expect to get it back without having to ask for it. And the item should be in the same, or better, condition as it was when we loaned it.

That’s how our culture operates. Well, with one major exception. We sometimes ask someone to lend us their ears, referring to Mark Anthony’s oration at Julius Caesar’s funeral, which began, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” (Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2, William Shakespeare.)

Mark Anthony wanted his audience to give him their ears, their attention, for a little while. But he had no intention of returning them unchanged. His goal was to transform their thinking, impact their minds, and influence their behaviour.

Every communicator, from musician and artist to speaker and writer, has that same goal. Yes, I too, want to reach through your eyes and ears into your mind and heart. My goal is to modify your thought and actions, hopefully for the better. I try to reach your mind by presenting information, facts and logic. But I also try to reach your heart, your emotions. We tend to change our minds because of our feelings, our emotions, but then confirm the change with reasoning and logic.

Effective speakers and writers don’t just present ideas from their minds to the minds of their audience and readers, they let all their thoughts and words go through their hearts, their own emotions first and then into the hearts of the hearers and readers.

So where’s the emotion part of this column?

The Canela culture has a “time erases everything bad” philosophy. But with God, who lives in eternity, time erases nothing. The passage of time does not delete our sins against God. Instead, Jesus died and shed His blood in order to erase sin against God. Not the flow of time, but the flow of blood, the lifeblood of Jesus, the Son of God.

The Canelas now know the truth. They have had the Word of God in their language for twenty years. They now know that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.”

But what about the thousands of people groups who are still locked in their cultural errors? Who still don’t know about Jesus and His voluntary sacrifice to pay for their sins?

That grabs my emotions. It makes me want to do something. What about you?