Words matter. Vocabulary creates culture. Identifiers have a way of forming identity.
Learned this early in my Christian experience. By God’s grace I was saved into a group of believers that took words seriously. Who were careful to try and only use biblical terminology to describe biblical things. For example, we didn’t go to church on Sunday mornings, instead we’d say we went to meeting because the church is a gathered people, or were going to the chapel because that’s an appropriate name for a building. Our preachers didn’t preach sermons, you won’t find the word sermon in the Bible. But as messengers of God, they gave messages, a word you will find in the Bible. Subtle? Yeah. Can perhaps be overdone? Maybe. Could be a source of some unhealthy pride for using “biblical language only”? Sometimes. But formative? Yup. Was for this guy — to this day.
Formative and, I think, not unfounded. What if, as God’s people, we only used terms to refer to ourselves which are biblical terms. And what if, we used all the terms? Not just calling ourselves Christians as a mindless moniker (only found twice in the Bible by the way), but also referring to ourselves as believers; as brothers and sisters (we use to use that a lot); as disciples or followers; as saints. If we were more careful in our identifiers for ourselves, might it not serve us to live into our identity in Christ? I’m thinkin . . .
Here’s what spurred the thought this morning:
O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance; they have defiled Your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. They have given the bodies of Your servants to the birds of the heavens for food, the flesh of Your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
(Psalm 79:1-2 ESV)
Psalm 79 seems to be a song of lament coming out of the Babylonian invasion. Having entered the land, defiled the temple, and laid waste Jerusalem, the Babylonian hoard had also killed many of God’s people. And what pops for me in these opening verses, what I think the Spirit for some reason brings to my attention, is the way in which the songwriter refers to God’s people. They are His servants. They are His faithful.
Now how’s that for biblical language? Imagine trying it on as part of our normative vocabulary when referring to ourselves and addressing others on a Sunday morning.
Good morning, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m servant Sam. What’s your name?
I’m faithful Fran. It’s my first time attending your meeting. So appreciated this morning’s message.
Welcome! Let me introduce you to some other of God’s servants and God’s faithful.
Doesn’t quite roll off our modern, culturally attuned tongues too smoothly. But if we got in the habit of referring to ourselves as God’s servants and the Lord’s faithful, you got to think that over time it’s going to shape how we see ourselves. Just as would referring to ourselves as saints, disciples, and brothers and sisters.
Reminded this morning, as received by the Spirit, that I was saved to be a servant and called to be faithful. A lot wrapped up in those words. The implications of such vocabulary pretty far reaching. To think about practically living it out, a bit daunting. But if it’s how my Father sees me, then it’s how I want to be seen. My identity shaped by His identifiers.
By His grace. For His glory.