I went through the drive through with my Grandma one day when I was home from school, she was trying to cheer me up. We pulled up to the speaker and she said, "I'll have some crisps please" - Naturally, I beging to laugh, "Granm, you mean fries" - the girl serving had no idea what it was that we were attempting to order, but I believe in the end I got my fries! (or chips - what ever you call them).
Words are strange things (if you want to read about the power of words check out:> http://popular-outcast.blogspot.com/ but I'm talking about something different - the meaning)
One word can have so many different meanings, at one time, over time or to different people, cultures etc.
Take the word "gay" - for my Grandma this word mean happy, but for most people today this means same sex attracted.
What about "wicked" - for me this word means evil, for some of the youth I work with it means "great" (or the like).
Another example "purchasing" - for me, an aussie, this means to buy, for my Indian friends this means "shopping".
Good old english language - "cards" - what do I mean? birthday cards, thick paper, the ones used for a game?
The context defines it.
So how does communication take place amoungst all these mixed meanings. Well perhaps its no wonder we have so many miscommunications. A word can evoke a powerful thing for one person while for another it has less meaning.
What does the word God evoke in people? Is is a nice image, a fearful thought, apathy, uncertainty, myth, creator, religon, spirituality, church, higher power, judge, friend, big?
We have use a lot of words as Christians... words that "normal" people have a completely different understanding of.
- "washed in the blood of the lamb"
-"power in the cross"
- "church on fire"
Just to name a few, if you stopped and thought I'm sure the list woulg go on.
It's also interesting when we think about the bible...written in a completely different era (much more distant to me than my Grandmas terms of "crips" and "gay" - and translated from a completely different language - and a very different context).
What words would I have a different understanding of today?
"compassion" - in the Greek means "gut wrenching" - the definition is not my image of soft, gentle, compassion... more disturbing upsetting towards another person.
"Salvation by faith" - this was understood in the context of community, as people in that time had no concept of individuality. Today for us this concept is a personal thing, a decision we make one on one contract with God.
"save" and "heal" are used interchangably by the new testament writers - but for us they are separate concepts, save = spiritual while heal = physical
"faith" is a verb in the greek - an action word. But we understand faith as a mental thing.
"scriptures" - when referred to in the NT can only be talking about the OT, they were writing the NT (and by the way, I reckon that when Paul was writing his letters he didn't know it'd be used as scripture!) we say "scripture" we think of NT and OT.
"Son of David" - for the people in that time meant, someone from a royal line and had polictical meanings. It identified Jesus as the expected Messiah to the Jews.
Funny isn't it, how words carry different meaning depending on the context. Perhaps if we keep this in mind when doing things like reading the bible and talking to others we'd have less miscommunication and much more meaningful interactions!