Words have meanings and meanings have words.
We can get so focused on the former that we lose sight of the latter. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we cease to do due diligence in our approach to the Bible, but we can get so caught up in intricacies of the language and grammar that we miss the point entirely.
Jesus is the Word of God. He is what the Lord has to say. To us. Today. And what a message He is!
Words have their place, of course, and I’m a strong proponent of responsible Bible interpretation. The Spirit and the saints of old went to great lengths to ensure the integrity of our Bibles, and so to treat the text as anything other than accurate is to insult its heritage. But let’s not allow our emphasis on accuracy to lead to our being blinded by the details.
It’s the Pharisee in us that nudges us towards majoring in minors in this way. They even tithed on their herbs, which was the kind of behavior that Jesus described as straining out gnats while swallowing camels. Don’t you just love the imagery there. In literary terms its called hyperbole, i.e. making your point by being a little over the top. Do you know how small a gnat is? Have you ever ridden a camel.
And so it is that our Christianity can spiral into mountain-molehill confusion. We can berate ourselves and other for all the praying, Bible reading and church attending we’re not doing. Chapter and verse can be applied to everything and everyone, everywhere. Our Christianity can be so perfectly packaged in what we do, where we go, what we say and who we hang out with, that when it;s all said and done we can’t help but impress ourselves. And in paying close attention to all all these details we can consummately miss the point. Hair-splitting hypocrisy is within reach for all of us should we lose sight of keeping the main thing the main thing.
So, what is the main thing? What is God saying in Jesus? The answer to that question could fill many a book, but it can also be bundled into just one simple sentence. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. The degree to which our Christianity declares that message is the degree to which we’re marching to the drumbeat of heaven, and the degree to which our Christianity obscures that message is the degree to which we’re bumbling around the dance floor with two left feet.
Words have meanings and meanings have words. Remain true on the meaning, and our lives in Christ will find appropriate words and actions with which to express it. From time to time we may be misunderstood; Jesus was. But that never changed His message, and neither should it alter ours. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in and through Jesus, are loving and redeeming their world, and we are a part of His redemptive plan. This is our story. This is our song!