Imagine you were traveling in a foreign country where the language was very different from your native tongue, and you needed to get directions, or ask for assistance, or even something as simple as the location of the nearest restroom? How would you communicate if you do not speak the indigenous language of the people of the country you are visiting? While English is spoken in many places it is not a universal language. So is there a universal language? The great 19th-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said “Music is the universal language of mankind.”

But did you know there is a “universal language?” It is Esperanto. Esperanto is an international auxiliary language devised in 1887 by Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof (1859-1917), a Jewish eye doctor, under the pseudonym of “Doktoro Esperanto.” He originally called the language “La Internacia Lingvo” (The International Language), but it soon became known as Esperanto, which means “the hoping one.”

Zamenhof was born in the Polish city of Bialystok which at that time was home to a polyglot, multiethnic mixture of Poles, Russians, Jews, Lithuanians and Germans. He believed that much of the distrust and misunderstanding between the different ethnic groups was a result of language differences, so he resolved to create an international language which could be used as a neutral lingua franca and could help break down the language barriers. Between 100,000 and 2,000,000 people worldwide fluently or actively speak Esperanto, including perhaps 1,000 native speakers who learned Esperanto from birth. Esperanto has a notable presence in 112 countries. Its usage is highest in Europe, East Asia and South America.

The first World Congress of Esperanto was organized in France in 1905. Since then, congresses have been held in various countries every year, with the exceptions of years during the world wars. Although no country has adopted Esperanto officially, Esperanto was recommended by the French Academy of Sciences in 1921 and recognized by UNESCO in 1954, which recommended it to its member states in 1985. Esperanto was the 32nd language accepted as adhering to the “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages” in 2007.

What language is universal or international? What about love? Is love expressed in any language the same? Sandi Patty sang a song that was popular several years ago titled “Love In Any Language.” The chorus to that song is:

Love in any language, straight from the heart

Pulls us all together, never apart

And once we learn to speak it, all the world will hear

Love in any language, fluently spoken here

Love is a language that is understood by virtually everyone. At the very core of our being we desire to be loved and to love. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples — “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back — given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” Luke 6:38 (the Message)

God’s love is freely given and as recipients of God’s love we choose what to do with the love we have been given. Simply put, we see and experience life through two lenses, one of abundance and the other of scarcity. One lens gives us a true image of God’s abiding presence and the other offers us a distorted perception of reality based on our expectation of scarcity. Depending on the lens we look through our vision or focus will look very different. When we look through the lens of God’s abundant love and allow the abundance of God’s love to flow through us to others we experience the world as a place of abundance and joy. If we choose to peer through our perceptions of scarcity and view the world through a lens that focuses on scarcity of God’s love, we will see what we expect. What if we all spoke the language of love for ALL God’s creation?

The Rev. Dr. Robert C. Brown is the senior pastor at Rome First United Methodist Church.