"Who is Shooby Doo-Wop?" my seven-year-old asked with an obvious frustration at our dinner table a few weeks ago. Upon hearing the inquiry, our four-year-old emphatically repeated the question with eyes wide and hands raised, "Yeah, who is Shooby Doo-Wop?" After probing a bit more to understand what they were really asking, it became humorously apparent that they were intensely confused over a kids' song about God's love they'd recently sung at school. Maybe you've heard it, sung it, or been confused by it yourself. The song starts out with an upbeat, catchy chorus:
I like bananas, I think that mangoes are sweet
And I like papayas, but nothing can beat
The sweet love of God...
Simple enough...until it slows down into a 50s style ballad. When it repeats with an oldies remix, the last line of the chorus sustains the word "God," and a new line is introduced over the top of it: "shooby-doo-wop, oh shooby-doo-wop, oh shooby-doo-wop, oh oh." As it turns out, captivated by the new line, my kids' young minds could only hear this idea:
...but nothing can beat
The sweet love of shooby-doo-wop, oh shooby-doo-wop...
I'd be asking the same thing if I had no familiarity with the idiosyncrasies of 50s music: who in the world is Shooby-Doo-Wop whose love is so sweet and can't be beat? (As I'm re-reading my written description of this dinner conversation, I'm realizing that you just had to be there to appreciate how sidesplittingly funny this whole thing was!) But still, the lesson can be learned:
It's possible to express something about God's love in a way that doesn't quite compute in our listener's frame of reference.
This conversation with my kids has made me wonder how many times I've tried to communicate something of God's love to others in a way that found no connection or relevance in the heart of those with whom I was sharing. In our sharing of the gospel and of God's character, it is all too easy to be unconsciously self-absorbed, speaking from our own lenses and expecting others to perceive things exactly the way we do. Whether in the religious jargon we rely upon or in the assumptions we make about others' prior experience, we fail to be considerate, more often than we realize, of how our listeners live and view reality.
No wonder so much of Jesus' teaching about the kingdom of heaven was couched in stories that employed everyday scenarios and situations familiar to everyone in His audience. It wasn't just that He was trying to present something fresh and different. There wasn't anything trendy or flashy about shepherds, seeds, and crops. Jesus was simply interested in His hearers, wanting to speak from their frames of reference. He was laying self aside even in the way He communicated in order for others have an obstacle-free path to hearing, seeing, and receiving the gospel.
And maybe that's the most pivotal reality: to communicate in a way that connects like Jesus, we must be willing to put others first like Jesus. In our sharing and speaking of the gospel, to be like Jesus is to prioritize understanding others first before making others understand us. Otherwise, we may unknowingly leaving a wake of shooby-doo-wop confusion rather than leading people one step closer to salvation.