The English language is awesome. It has developed over the last two millennia as a fluid living language ever adapting, ever adding words to it ever changing grammar and spelling. And we who are native English speakers don’t always understand that. You have your grammar Nazis who correct people’s spelling, usage of they’re, their, and there along with you’re and your and its and it’s. These grammar Nazis also correct grammar, and when talking with people, pronunciation. Yet even grammar Nazis don’t always fully understand the English language and its development.
I once read on a meme (is it mehm or meem?) that “English doesn’t borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.” That pretty much sums up the English language.
English started off as a Germanic language, a fusion between the Anglos and Saxon tribes of Germany, fused with Frisian from the northern area of the Netherlands, later influenced by Norse Viking invaders, and later seasoned with French after the Norman conquest of 1066. In the British Isles the English language began splitting apart and forming into distinct dialects. As people started writing things down in English, you could tell by their spelling of a word which dialect they spoke. After the printing press came to England, spelling became unified. Now here’s the thing, later on, spellings changed and became weird. Some words were Latinized or Greekified to look cool. Also, Latin grammar was imposed upon English which is a Germanic language (hence whey you’re not supposed to split an infinitive in English yet an infinitive in English is two words while in Latin it is only one).
In other words, the English language is totally messed up, fluid and ever changing. Yet our perception of it isn’t. There are basics to the language that won’t change such as pronouns, the verb “to go,” and what not. Words come and go and grammar will change from time to time (we split infinitive and have a charge to boldly go where no one has gone before).
So what does this have to do with the cross?
The language of the cross has stayed the same over the last two thousand years. Yet it has been added to, things taken away, other things re-interpreted, and then things have been reevaluated and then there are things added that shouldn’t be whatsoever. Yet when you are a follower of Jesus you aren’t always aware of the changes of the language of the cross.
What is the language of the cross?
Jesus died upon the cross as the ultimate sacrifice. He died and went to hell and on the third day after He died He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. 40 days later, He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Now a bit of earth is in heaven, praying for us on our behalf to God the Father. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, fully God, fully human. The cross is the pinnacle situation, the penultimate moment, the climax of the Bible. Without it, there is no purpose to the Bible. It is the ultimate moment when God’s plan of redemption comes to fruition and the process of redemption and reconciliation can truly begin.
Some have added to the language of the cross, imposing a spiritual grammar upon it that doesn’t actually go with the language of the cross. Things are added such as “newer testaments” and other documents that take the cross and change the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Adding to the language of the cross then shifts the focus of the importance of the cross in the grand Biblical narrative and God’s plan of redemption for his people.
Others have subtracted and rearranged the language of the cross, moving it to mere morality and instruction. Changing the importance of Jesus death, sacrifice, resurrection (if it even happened they ask) and way of redemption and salvation. Thus imposing upon the language of the cross an interpretation that takes away the power of the language to begin with.
Some have become so entrenched in keeping the language of the cross to a strict specific dialect that they dig in their heals and refuse to listen to other dialects. Just as the English language is the same throughout, it has different dialects. Dialects change and shift. People in the US had a dialect shift and those in England had a great vowel shift ( I was going to say vowel movement, but then I could make some bad passing jokes). It is the same language but word usage comes and goes and the dialect changes. It is the same language but the way it is spoken is different to meet the needs to communicate with each other.
There are dialects in the language of the cross. There are many who, like the grammar Nazis mentioned above, refuse to change their dialect and harshly impose their dialect on others in their language of the cross. Too many times, we are speaking the same language of the cross, but some refuse to listen to the dialogue because it isn’t in the same dialect.
In order to communicate the language of the cross, we need to truly understand how we can translate the understanding and knowledge of the message of the cross of Jesus to the varying dialects of the language of the cross that are out there.
What I struggle with and seek wisdom on is how can I translate and adapt the language of the cross to an ever changing and fluid world and culture around me? How can I be true to the language of the cross while at the same time speak it in a way that is understandable and comprehensible to those who speak a different dialect than me or even more so, don’t understand the language to begin with?
I truly try to stay true to the language of the cross, that Jesus truly is the only way, that the power of the cross is what is needed to be reconciled with God. Yet, I need to speak it in different dialects and translate it to people who don’t understand the language.