I have often heard that the English language is very difficult to learn. There are so many “rules” which are “broken” so often that it almost makes the rule meaningless. And so often, we use the same word to mean something quite different in two different situations. For instance, one word can mean a vocal part or a brass instrument.
Recently, “Mr. Smith” agreed to accompany our church choir on a musical instrument. The choir director mentioned this to another member, saying that “Mr. Smith” would be playing a baritone. The response was “a baritone what?” to which she said, “a baritone”. The inquiry then was “a baritone saxophone? a baritone what?” She responded: “a baritone baritone.” After a frustrating conversation, it became clear that the choir director was speaking of an instrument and, although musically inclined, the church member had never heard of an instrument called by that name.
If a man says he is a baratone, does that mean he is a brass instrument? Of course not. But, how often do we say the correct word and others hear that word but interpret it with a meaning very different than what we thought we conveyed with the word?
Jesus recognized this problem as the distinction between what Scripture says and how the Pharisees and Sadducees interpreted those same words.
“”You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults [whoever says Raca, which is a Greek word of contempt] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
The Pharisees and Sadducees were repeating one of the Ten Commandments as expressed in the Old Testament without understanding the scope and intent of that commandment. They were using the same words but meaning something much less than intended.
Another example relates to adultery.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Again, same words but different and expanded meaning.
The misunderstanding of the words expressed by God through Moses in the Old Testament was not a surprise to God and it was not something that only became apparent when Jesus came into His ministry. The Prophet Isaiah said:
“And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.””
Isaiah 29:13-14 NLT
When we speak of our God to our neighbors, we need to be clear about Who we are talking about. Although He is the creator of the universe and all that is in it, He is not only the creator. Although He is God, there are no other gods above Him. We may have gods that we look to, gods such as money, fame, even family or health; but nothing is anything even approaching our God.
Beloved, the bumper sticker with all the symbols of other religions with the term “Co-Exist” cannot be the philosophy of the Christian. We certainly recognize that others believe in gods. But, those ideas are not the same as the one true God of Scripture, whose Son is Jesus Christ our Savior.
Be careful of what you say and how you say it. Mean what you say and be ready to stand up for your faith. Our world needs to see Christians who are committed and willing to say that God is the only God and Jesus Christ is His Son and the only way of salvation.
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6 ESV
Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be my Savior. I pray that I would be willing to stand and affirm this truth in witness to others and that Your Holy Spirit would give me the strength and grace to so witness to the glory and honor of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.