In the grand book of Deuteronomy, chapter twenty-eight, God continues to explain the judgment that will come to Israel if they are disobedient. These curses include a nation that will be identified by its language: The Lord shall bring a nation against thee, from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand. (28:49) In a walled city, if you were to hear a strange tongue, you would be on guard; in this text, it was a warning of judgment.
The land I live in is filled with many languages. Some of these tongues quickly identify the national background of the speaker. Normally, for a nation to be united, the country has to have one major language. It is misguided to think that all languages could be equal in one nation. The growth of a language, other than the one that unites the people, could be a signal of disruption and a possible sign of judgment. It would be unwise to demand that all languages but one be silenced. When a new language threatens a coup, however, trouble is on the agenda.
Languages help us identify many things, good or bad.
WORDS HAVE MEANING AND IDENTITY
Not only can our language identify our national backgrounds, it can also place us as being from a certain area of the country. Our community here is a retirement development. Some of our folks have had all the snow they want, so they come from New Jersey, New York, New England, and places like Boston. Others have come from mid-America and the deep South. When we have a community social, it becomes a plethora of accents.
When Peter tried to deny his relationship to Jesus, he was caught by his speech. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. (Matt. 26:72-73)
Words make up our vocabulary, so the speech of an educator, doctor, scientist, or engineer leaves you with a fairly good idea of what is his/her vocation. Then there is the moral quality of conversation. Tongues that freely take God’s name in vain, or are risqué, tell you a lot about the speaker’s background and moral perspective. Before you ever ask someone a direct question about their spiritual condition, their language has already betrayed them.
Yes, I am going somewhere with this. It applies to what has been happening in the circle of those who profess to be Christians as well as the phenomenon of the remaking of the American church. The political atmosphere at this point in time only adds to what we need to know about those who attempt to identify with Christianity.
THE WORLD OF THEOLOGY
In every discipline there are popular words, and the “in crowd” is obligated to use them to prove they are current. It is so obvious that it is humorous. In education and in theological symposiums, it seems that every paper or presentation has to use these terms even if they aren’t relevant to the specific subject. It is a strange way to try and prove you are a scholar. The problem is that this use of pet words is passed along to those who don’t know what they mean.
This is one of the ways that Bible ignorance has infected the Christian conversation. Some of my pet peeves include the word “kingdom”. It is used by many who seem to think it is some kind of magic wand. The truth is they have no idea what “kingdom” they are even talking about! “Similarities are not equal”, and the Bible describes a number of kingdoms. The use of cute little phrases is simply nonsense. People talk about “building, growing, enhancing, or strengthening the kingdom”. Which kingdom is that? God has made it clear that He alone is in charge of His kingdoms. God will build all of His kingdoms. He may use us to help in some minute action, and we may act as servants, but we are not building His kingdoms. When did God die and leave prideful man in charge?
To add insult to injury, in addition to taking credit for what God is doing, men have the gall to defend their views, ideas, opinions, and interpretations. Those human conclusions are irrelevant. There is only one true idea, the one that God has stated clearly in the Bible text before men began to insert their own ideas. Our speech definitely betrays us.
One more illustration is the use of the word “holiness”. Holiness is the sovereign possession of a holy God. We have no holiness and cannot beg, borrow, or steal it. God alone is holy, and if any of His holiness is in my life, it is because God dwells within each believer. Any holiness that flows in or out of my life is totally God’s working through this earthly frame; I am not the source or the owner.
For the self-centered person, this looks like a matter of splitting hairs. The truth is that this religious cancer is destroying many of the young bucks in ministry today. The younger generation is enamored with false intellect. The purveyors of error – often scholars – poison young minds by their use of words that hide real meaning. What they are reading and following is obvious because “their speech betrays them”. Watch for the “buzz words” that are used in order to make one sound so much like the “in crowd”. In their youth and inexperience, they fail to ask about the theology behind the verbiage. Their heads and hearts have been turned from the scriptures, where the answers really lie – turned instead to those who have hidden truth behind their terminology and speech. But that is a topic for another day…