Lessons from Teaching English as a Second Language

Teaching English as a Second Language has taught me something about English: There are loads of rules. People from other countries who just have to learn the rules and then all the rules about the rules (meta-rules?) can feel utterly overwhelmed with the complexity of the language we speak naturally. They can even become resentful. They could wish that English were their first language, but of course that cannot be.

But if you grew up in a home where English is spoken all the time, and spoken correctly, then it will seem natural, and the rules will come easily. In fact, you’ll be able to intuit rules you’ve never even heard. “Oh yes, I see. I thought so.”

Just so, the Language of Love has rules. The rules in the New Testament can seem overwhelming. You can make a long, long list and say, “All right, now I’m really gonna keep these rules,” but to keep everything straight and to remember them all can make us end up just feeling resentful against God.

But when the Language of Love becomes your first language—which can happen only by the miracle of new life by grace through faith—then that Language comes naturally, and the rules fit into the schema you’ve already developed by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the rules are helpful, but mostly to give form and shape to something you have already basically understood by faith.

This is the Gospel. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. He takes helpless people who are dying in their own blood and cries, “Live!” He transforms hearts that are dead-set against Him and fills them with His own Love, which transcends all language boundaries. In His glorious New Covenant He sets rules, but not so much for restraints as for clarity. “This is the way it is in My Kingdom.”

And we who are His leap up to cry out, in our Love for Him, “Yes, Lord! I see! I thought so!”


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Prudence Rumley
Prudence Rumley
12 years ago

These are good thoughts! I was just wondering where you taught English as a second language, or if you do so currently (I see that you live in Greenville)? I have looked for work teaching English (preferably to adults), but I find that it is hard to get hired without an ed degree. (I do have a B.A., a TESOL certificate, and volunteer experience teaching ESL.) I would love to hear any ideas you have when you have time.
Thank you so much!

Prudence Rumley


[…] to do, with a naturally-understood description of what that life should look like. (More about that here.) If you continue steadfast in faith, “you have become partakers of […]

carlene byron
8 years ago

If I lived all my life surrounded by the love of the Lord as I have lived all my life surrounded by the English language, then I would be as fluent in love as I am in English. But as a lifetime resident of the United States, I have had to study grammar to write and edit accurately, since we speak and write English, but not perfectly. Comparably, as an adult convert, I have to learn a great deal about God’s love by studying God’s rules about how we love since I don’t have “native” understanding. Nor would the imperfect Christian community within which I live create that understanding for me. I have a constant, “in-house” instructor in the Holy Spirit. Still, when an enemy has gotten himself into trouble by his own stupidity, I know I am supposed to help him, just as I would help a brother under the same circumstances, from reading Deuteronomy and Leviticus. I am to respect people in authority because God told me in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Proverbs, plus the familiar New Testament passages. God told me in Proverbs, plus the New Testament to treat others as more important than myself. I do entirely agree that there’s no place to add rules to the ones God has given us. But I think it’s very important for us to know what God has taught us. It is, so to speak, the grammar of our life in the family of God.

Noemi Kalath
Noemi Kalath
6 months ago

This is probably the best explanation of NCT I heard so far. I understand what you’re trying to say with the way the commandments fit in the New Covenant. Very clarifying. Many times NCT is portrayed as antinomianism.

Even though I’m not yet quite in the NCT camp, I have realized in the last few years that you don’t really have to tell a real Christian what to do or to “hold him accountable”. The problems in the church arise with the counterfeit conversions.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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