Words are powerful. They have the ability to build people up and create kingdoms – and likewise they have the ability to pull people down and destroy kingdoms. There are various ways we use words. The spoken word, the written word and the words that come about from actions.
One of the problems with the written word, is that we don’t see the speakers expressions. The smile or frown. The tears or twinkle in their eyes. We don’t feel the touch of their hand on our shoulder and nor do we hear the tone in their voice… Its a relatively recent event, where emoticons have been introduced into the written word to try and express the meaning of the words we write. We have winks, smiles, frowns, tears, laughter, embarrassed faces etc.
I believe this is a good thing; for it helps us in our communication – to be understood and to understand. I believe if the authors of Scripture used emoticons – they would be a tremendous help to us for our understanding of the scriptures. They would help us to understand the tone, the expressions, the various nuances of meaning in which the writers intended.
This is where I believe the narratives help us to understand the epistles. For we can see the story of life unfolding before our eyes in the narratives. Through the narratives we can visualise the tears, the laughter, the touch, the frown and anger, the smiles and the pain. The epistles don’t give us those type of windows and therefore we can often read them as being rules and regulations in a legalistic sense…and perhaps in our reading – we miss the real intent of what is being said – because we miss how it is being said.
I was privileged to receive an invitation to preach at our church, by our youth pastor on the 1st of May at the night service. They have been preaching through the book of Romans and my text for the night is Romans 13. In reading through the passage, I started to think of Paul, as he was writing this letter. What were his expressions. Was he crying and teary eyed at times. Was he showing anger. Was he laughing. What was the background and his experience behind the motivation of his writing.
Its easy to read this passage in the sense of being lectured to. Don’t do this, don’t do that. However I believe that Paul’s tone was something else. He was a man who had an experience of God’s grace and mercy. He was a man who had radically changed through encountering the Lord Jesus and his forgiveness. He was a man who used to live under rules and regulations in trying to please God….and he was a man who encountered the love of God in a way that transformed his heart, his thinking and his way of life.
I believe that Paul’s intent behind this letter and passage is not one of rules and regulations. Rather he is saying – allow the love of Christ to transform you and this is what the 10 commandments were all about… how to love one another.
I wonder what emoticons Paul could have used in his letters if he was writing to us today – and I wonder if he did – would they change the way we understand his writings?