Word Play: a Jambalaya Stew

Nary a bar room or bedroom escapes this interplay: “That is what you said!” “But that is not what I meant!”

Words don’t always mean what we expect them to represent. That is the dynamics of language and ultimately of people. Words in motion; meanings at play.

In our latest family devotion study through the book Claiming Christ, we read a bit of history on the classic Catholic/Protestant debate. And, although the smoldering pot contains a jambalaya of unnamed contents, there is curious evidence of at least some chunks of word play.

Two of the spiciest culprits of indigestion between a Catholic and a Protestant are Faith and Salvation.

History records evidence of some horrifying fights between the two dominating sides of Christian tradition: One flings juicy spoonfuls with red and green peppers; the other dumps entire bowls of burning sauces with brown and yellow roots. I don’t intend to make light of the sometimes extreme abuses inflicted by proponents on opponents in this religious debate, but rather to allegorize the conflict as partly a palate problem.

You see, the degrees of meaning are often not the same. Whereas one may claim to measure by Fahrenheit, the other uses a different instrument of degrees. Although there exists conversion charts from F to C (Celsius), what if the other side uses Grandma’s finger-dip method? How does one accurately compare recipes between F and Finger-dip?

So it appears with the various references to Faith and Salvation.

While doing dishes, it is often discovered that when approaching a meal containing Faith, one side spices it with the flavor of intellectual assent of belief; a defining of that biblical word as simply “what one knowingly accepts”. While scraping the sides of another pot, the careful researcher will find a very different mix of ingredients: something more resembling the entire devotion of belief from the heart, mind, body, and soul.

The point here is that one party has a significantly more narrow definition to the same word, and if the two sides don’t verify their ingredients up front, they will forever talk past each other, never able to taste where the other is coming from.

Ironically, when sampling Salvation, the two parties tend to swap ladling spoon for pickle fork. The broad, holistic, plate of Faith is followed up as with sugar cubes for English tea. On this side of the buffet line, Salvation is most often presented in terms of its supremely important foundation (you’ll find it in the spice rack under “Justification”).

In contrast, the narrow fare of Faith, now shifts from pinch to pile when sampling Salvation. The menu here describes a full-process inclusive dish: how one is made right with God, how one grows in holiness, and ultimately how God brings a transformed believer into eternal glory.

By this point, you may be asking, which is which, but that detail is for you to sift out.

Like many family gatherings during the holidays, the feuding relatives come together at those rare moments to give a pretense of being family, but because they don’t have the same preference for taste, they remain unable to find common appreciation for what is spread before them on the Lord’s table.

This debate cannot be simply boiled down to a matter of semantics. However, definitions can go a long ways toward more peaceful gatherings.

If you are willing to take a tip from your bar tender, the next time you find yourself sharing a table with someone from a rival restaurant, try asking them what they mean by the main terms they use. You may find common ingredients that are just spiced a bit differently. And, yes, you may also discover that there are very real reasons for not eating off someone else’s plate.

Mormons don’t mean the same thing as Baptists when using the name Jesus; Presbyterians mean something different from Methodists when speaking of “works”; Catholics and Protestants don’t mean the same thing when addressing “salvation”; and the list could go on until the food spoils.

Savor the flavor. And, try the guacamole dish while your at it.

About grahamAlive

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