Contextualization is one of the most important aspects of sharing the Gospel. It means to make it understandable to a person within the context they are in - using terms and examples which makes understandable a message which is very much outside their personal experience of the world.
Contextualization is a major task of missionaries, specifically those who work amongst people who have never heard the Gospel, as they try to explain to them the concepts of the Christian faith.
Essentially, Jesus is the ultimate example of contextualization, when God made himself known to us in terms which we could comprehend by becoming a man and coming to earth.
The writers of the New Testament practiced contextualization in explaining a very Jewish Gospel message to the Greek speaking Gentile world.
In church, every Sunday, preachers practice contextualization by explaining to people on every corner of the world the ancient text of the Bible in terms which make sense to them in their cultural setting.
And here in the Cady household, I witnessed an amazing example of contextualization the other day, as Rosemary was explaining to Nate the Easter story, seeking to do it in a way that would be relevant and understandable to him.
She told him: Jesus went on the cross, and got owies. He got owies on the cross to help everybody. Just like when you get spankings for being naughty - Jesus got the spanking instead, even though he wasn't naughty, so that you wouldn't have to get it - because he loves you!
And it seems that Nate gets it on some level. The other night he came and pressed his finger into my wrist and told me - "Owies. Jesus got owies on the cross."
Rosemary - you are a true missionary; you know how to contextualize the Gospel, even for our toddler. You're the best!