Lee Bramlett of Wycliffe Bible translators was working on translating the Bible for the Hdi people, one of the indigenous populations of the country of Cameroon. He wanted to make certain he did justice to the translation, and this weighed heavily on his mind and heart. One night he had a dream in which God prompted him to take a closer look at the word for love in the Hdi language.
Verbs in Hdi end in -i, -a, and -u, but the verb to love only ended in -i and -a, never -u. “Why?” he asked his native translation team. Why could the verb for love be dvi, dva, but never dvu?
“Could you ‘dvi’?” Lee asked.
They said yes, that “dvi” is the love the husband had for his wife but was now gone.
They then explained that “dva” was the love a husband had for his wife as long as she was a good wife, remaining faithful and serving her husband.
Lee then asked, “Could a husband ‘dvu’ his wife?”
The translation team members laughed. “Of course not!” they said. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say, ’dvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.”
Lee thought of John 3:16, then asked, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”
There was a long silence, then tears in the eyes of the native translation team. They replied, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected his great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”
The Hdi people, through the resulting translation of the Bible in their own language, came to understand that God “dvu”-d them so much that He sent and sacrificed His own Son for them, the core message, the Gospel message, of the Bible.
The staff writer for the Wycliffe article, from which I’m obviously heavily indebted for this short piece, concludes, “God had encoded the story of His unconditional love right into their own language. For centuries, the little word was there – unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable.”
Our understanding of God’s love for us needs to be the understanding the Hdi people came to have of God’s love. We can experience God’s love, not because we are lovely or loving, but because He is a God of love, of unconditional love, and His love is a forgiving love and an everlasting love. We, like the Hdi people, just need to grasp this truth and respond accordingly!
“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16