The English language has progressively astonished me. I just finished my third semester of a foreign language, and with that I’ve learned not only a lot about it but also a lot of my first language, English. Not everything that I’ve learned about English has been positive, however. English is actually a pretty archaic language if you ask me – especially when comparing it to some other languages. This raises problems when translating to English a biblical language such as Greek. Though there are problems with every language, I think that the American Church has been taken captive not only to its own culture but also to its language. There is one word that I particularly have a problem with: you.
Have you ever thought about this word? The word is contradictory in use and application. “You” is always singular, but it is always used with a plural verb. When one reads anything using this word, they are then confined to context to decide what “you” is referring to. And this ambiguity is what kills me.
When reading the Bible, especially in the New Testament, the word “you” is used a lot. This is where the ambiguity lies. I have been to so many churches, in so many services, hearing in so many sermons, how to apply pericopes to my personal life where this word is used. After taking a deeper look into the text I’ve learned that most of the time where “you” is used, it is used to talk not about the individual but to talk about the church, both locally and as a whole.
I think we are missing a big theme in the Bible because of our ignorance: the theme of unity. Even where there are passages in the singular tense, the Pastoral Epistles for example, they deal with the church as a whole. When Paul is telling those in Rome that they are more than conquerors, he isn’t talking to just one person, but that the whole body of believers in Rome can persevere. When John is talking to Thyatira in Revelation, he holds the whole church accountable for the false teaching of Jezebel, not just one individual. Even the famous “love” passage in 1Corinthians 13 is placed smack dab in the middle of passages dealing with unity in the church. I don’t think this is happen-stance.
Acts 2:42-47 – And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
I wonder if God intended for the church to be so disunited. Did God intend for there to be a different church on every street corner bearing a different denominational name? It breaks my heart. The church, to properly exemplify the Great Commandment, needs to be unified. In Acts this is the first mention of the church, and I think Luke is making some theological significance to their unity. I’m not saying we need to be a pseudo-communal group of believers. BUT, at the end of the short segue Luke says that they were “praising God and having favor with all the people.” The church was living out the Greatest Commandment.
Be challenged today to look outside of yourself. This isn’t restricted to the four-walls of a building. Just remember that you were made to be relational. Your sole purpose is to glorify God, and that can only be done relationally – with Him and with others. Take time to remember a name to a new face, praying for a need concerning a new soul, and making a friend of a new acquaintance.