Dag Hammarskjold wrote in Markings: “Respect for the word is the first commandment in the discipline by which a man can be educated to maturity – intellectual, emotional, and moral. Respect for the word – to employ it with scrupulous care and an incorruptible heartfelt love of truth – is essential if there is to be any growth in a society or in the human race. To misuse the word is to show contempt for man. It undermines the bridges and poisons the wells. It causes Man to regress down the long path of his evolution.”
At first glance this may seem like an overstatement on the importance of language, but is it? Is not language the very means by which we explore and understand our own humanity? That is what great German philosopher Wittgenstein believed when he wrote: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” In our age of fragmentation (i.e. texts, tweets, emoticons, images, etc) the loss of the language has far-reaching effects, especially when it comes to our ability to articulate clearly what it means to follow Jesus.
Christianity derives its meaning from the Jesus of Scripture. The written Word of God is the inspired witness by which we come to know the Living Word. Christians have always held tightly to a particular vocabulary that to lose it would be to lose our identity in Christ. It’s not enough to know the vocabulary of our faith, but we must know how to define them and apply them rightly.