I like to learn. I like to spend some time each day reading articles and books and listening to radio broadcasts. There are so many good thoughts and ideas and thought-provoking points of view. As I try to put my own thoughts into words on this blog, I’m reminded that it could be easy for readers to misunderstand my words. And so it is a challenge to write precisely and accurately. It is frustrating to think that no matter what I say and what terminology I use, there always seems to be a group somewhere that will take my words in a way that was not intended.
Isn’t it interesting that one of the ways that error can creep in to a belief system is by not being familiar enough with the truth? Remember the old example of the bank tellers and how they learn to spot a counterfeit? They study the real currency so intently that they know what the real thing looks like with such precision that even a minor flaw in a counterfeit can be spotted and discarded.
In the realm of evangelical Christianity (which is a VERY wide group, I realize), there are denominations and subgroups that have their own culture and terminology. They have ways that they speak to each other “in house”. That may not be a bad thing, to be comfortable and skip over having to define terms every time there’s a conversation. However, I was reminded in my readings that some groups may look at what I say and run completely in the wrong direction. Or they may see my words as betraying some sort of cultish double-speak.
For instance, the term “grace” means a wide variety of things to many groups. I’ve been skeptical of terms like “grace-living” or “gospel-living” because some may take that to mean that there is no law at all in the New Testament. They see grace as permission to indulge in sin without consequence because we are not under the law anymore. One author I read joked that it is this mentality that would sing, “Free from the law, O happy condition. Now I can sin with Jesus’ permission!” They would think I lean toward being a Pharisee or a legalist looking too much at outward conformity, when I’m merely advocating high standards for the sake of holy living because of the Lord’s mercies toward me. This group has been with whom I have had the most experience.
On the other hand, there are groups that use the term “grace-living” or “grace-parenting” as an alternative to some truly overbearing, even abusive, lifestyles and parenting styles. Their use of these terms is more accurate, from what I can understand, as they reach out to those who truly need grace and mercy and freedom from an Old Testament type of law. This group would look at my cry for stricter parenting in the early years or submission to my husband with wide eyes wondering if I’m advocating abusiveness or “doormat” submission. For these folks who have had too much experience with brutality and overbearing control, my words would be worrisome to them as I defend holy living before the Lord and look down on “grace-living.” They’ve heard the right words before, but have been the victims of a dangerous double-speak where gracious and righteous words are merely code for something that was never taught.
Words are important. The Psalmist said, “Let the words of my mouth, And the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). I’ve been reminded, and rightly so, to be careful with my words, to mean what I say and to be precise.
The way to know if someone is speaking the truth is to know the truth yourself. Don’t just take my word for it. Continual study in the Word and reading it for its plain meaning is key. By examining the real thing and knowing it ubiquitously, we can spot error a mile away.