The movie Rush Hour popularized the saying, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth.” In the scene when these lines are used the co-star Chris Tucker, playing the part of LA Police Detective James Carter is talking to co-star Jackie Chan, playing the part of Hong Kong Detective Inspector Lee. Detective Carter does not believe Detective Inspector Lee understands English. Getting in his face he uses this line, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth.”
If he really did not believe he understood English he might have been more correct to say, “Do you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth?” To understand the words one has to first actually hear the words. One must distinguish that the sounds being made are distinct sound patterns that carry specific meanings. That is what we mean when we say hear. We actually are implying the recognition of the sounds heard as distinct words.
That is something we have to learn. We must learn that the sounds we hear coming out of the mouths of those around us are not just so much noise as the other noise we hear. We must learn to distinguish these sounds as distinct patterns. Once we distinguish the sounds as distinct patterns then we must begin to learn the meaning associated with the sounds we hear. When we hear a language or sound pattern mix that we are not familiar with then it sounds like so much noise. We actually do not hear the words that are coming out of ones mouth because we do not know what the distinct sounds are that constitute a word.
Jesus said, “he who has ears to hear let him hear.” Jesus in his infinite wisdom seems to have known that though we have ears we often cannot hear. We do not hear the words coming out to understand the message being delivered. Even though we may speak the same language we do not hear the words coming out. We do not understand what is being said.
I experience this talking to young children and some youth. I can be talking but there is no response to what I have said because they did not understand the words coming out of my mouth. I experience it in fellowship with our Spanish speaking members. The other person may be speaking to fast or simply using words that I do not know such that I do not understand the words that are coming out of their mouth. I have also seen it in our committee work exploring the merger. Though the words being used are all English we often find that for one reason or another we do not understand the words that are coming out of the mouth of the other.
To hear the words coming out of the mouth of another one must first want to hear. If one is satisfied with the words they know to communicate with another then they can understand what another says as long as it is confined to their range of understanding. We are blessed to have an elaborate language system to allow us to communicate be we are doomed because we have to depend on words to communicate and words can often be so inadequate.
When Jesus said let those that have ears to hear let them hear he was speaking of more than our physical composition. He was speaking of a relationship with God that allows us to move beyond the limitation of sound waves to convey our message to others. Whether on a merger team, in a blended worship, or on the street talking to a stranger we need to use the ears of our spirit to guide our hearing. Then we can understand the words that we hear coming out of their mouth.