How often do we use words and phrases in the church without necessarily knowing what we are saying? How often are words thrown around without definitions? Eventually we all learn to speak the language without actually knowing what we are saying.
I know this happened to me. In my early church life, I knew all the right words to say. I would repeat things I heard my dad or the pastor say. I noticed how people responded when I used certain words or phrases in certain contexts and I would use them again in the same context.
The interesting thing is I didn’t do it intentionally. I wasn’t trying to sound a certain way or act a certain way. I think inside I actually thought that’s what it meant to be a Christian. “Turn it over to God.” “I know God has a plan for my life.” “Jesus is always with me.” I said these things without really entering into what I was saying. Did I really believe that Jesus was always with me? What does it mean to turn something over to God? Do I really believe God has a plan for me, and what would it look like for me to live like He does?
In my (not so) recent posts we were discussing the idea that Jesus’ mission is to give you and me “abundant life.” I would hate for us to fall into the trap of using a phrase without knowing what it means, so what is this abundant life? Stop for a minute and think about life. Think about the word. What does it mean to be alive? Is it merely breathing, heart pumping, and brain activity; sitting up and taking nourishment, on the green side of the grass? Is that what it means to be alive? I suppose in one sense that it does. But I don’t quite think it encapsulates the abundant life.
Too often I think the English language fails us. I don’t know any other languages really well, but it seems like most languages use multiple words to describe the nuance of an idea or a thing when English uses only one. I suppose I can appreciate the efficiency, but I can’t help but feel that we lose some meaning and depth of understanding. For example, there are multiple Greek words for “love.” Eros is romantic love, phileo is brotherly love or the love of a friend. Agape of course is an unconditional love. In English we have… love.
In Greek, the language of the New Testament, there are multiple words for “life.” One, psuke, is used when speaking of physical, breath, heart, and brain activity. Interestingly, this is not the word for life Jesus uses when talking about His mission. When He speaks about bringing life, He uses “zoe.” Zoe implies a full life, and life of abundance. In fact, one of the connotations of zoe is great riches. So when Jesus said He came to bring abundant life, He meant an abundant wealth of life. Maybe that’s a bit redundant, but I suppose it makes the point.
Okay, so the abundant life is a rich life, a full life, but that still doesn’t define it. That still doesn’t tell us what it means. What do you think when you hear that someone led a full life? Or better yet, when someone is described as “full of life?” What are some words you would use to describe someone full of life? Seriously, stop and do this.
Here are a few of mine: playful, fun, easy going, simple (not too busy), caring, helpful, kind, funny, passionate, free-spirited, willing to take risks. I suppose the list could go on. Were there similar words on your list? What would you add?
I think this describes the abundant life. I really do. If we were to talk about someone who is living the abundant life, I think these words would describe him or her. “Hey,” you’re probably saying, “that’s a description, not a definition.” You got me. You’re right; a description is not definition. I suppose I’ll have to attempt a definition in my next post.