Okay, I can't resist! If you're not a language nerd like me, you don't have to read this post (but I promise it won't contain anything the average elementary schooler can't understand).
This is a direct continuation and expansion on my earlier post:
I mentioned there that I don't want to present an academic word study, and I stand by that statement. I will however share one of the coolest things I've learned recently about the word "spirit" in the Bible.
"voice of Love" and where it comes from
For those who found the term "voice of Love" one step too abstract or too new-agey, I completely understand. I came to use that term through reading two of my favorite Christian writers: Henri Nouwen and C. S. Lewis.
This is the very condensed version of the post I didn't release yesterday (I've distilled it to only the interesting parts):
In the Bible, both new and old testaments, we translate one word in two different ways: sometimes we say it means "wind," but other times we say it means "spirit." Many people say that the literal translation is "wind," but that's extraordinarily wrong and misleading. In English we have separate words for "wind" and "spirit" because of historical usage and because we English speakers like to make arbitrary distinctions between things that we think are concrete versus things we think are spiritual. In other words, our language tends to assume that spiritual things are not necessarily tangible.
The authors of the Bible don't make that arbitrary linguistic distinction (except for some specific literary purposes, especially in poetry and high literature). The single word that we translate into both wind and spirit could more responsibly be translated as, "invisible force that causes things to happen."
Think about it: there's an invisible force that causes the leaves in the trees to move, but that same force causes you to live every day! How do you know that it's the same force? Just put your hand in front of your mouth and breathe. Doesn't that feel like the same stuff that moves the leaves? Yes it does! And if you're prevented from having that invisible stuff that moves the leaves, you die. That's how we know it's the stuff that keeps you alive every moment. This is basically the view that the Bible authors probably had!
Now, let's take this even further! We also know that there are other invisible forces that cause things to happen that aren't just air. If somone near you trips and drops their groceries, how do you react? It's almost like there's a rope that pulls you and the other people watching in toward the spilled groceries to help pick them up. We would call this a good (or holy) force. The inverse is also true: every time we see someone who needs help, and we really, really want to help but theres something holding us back (usually fear), we call that an evil force. Perhaps this is why faith and fear are exclusive opposites?
The last step to take is to notice something really amazing: people can control these invisible forces! We call it speaking. Your voice is literally made from the force that moves leaves in the wind, makes up tornadoes and hurricanes, and allows every person in the world to continue living at any given moment. Isn't that an amazing and scary amount of power?
This make the passage where Jesus tells us that we're "not defiled by what goes into our mouth but by what comes out" make a lot more beautiful! This is because our voice comes out of our mouth and our voice is an extremly powerful and awesome force that we control. And when we use the very thing that gives humans life to enact evil on the world, it reveals that our life is full of evil spirit.
But when we instead choose to be the image of God on earth, using our voice and breath constructively and to give life to everyone around us (just as God used his voice to create everything and his breath to give us life), it reveals that we are full of the Holy Spirit of God.
Now to wrap up: since God is love and his invisible force leads us to do his will (which is to love him and love others), we could call that force the "Holy Spirit." Or we could call it the "voice of Love" (do you see now how they're related?). So in my last post when I said that most people hear the Holy Spirit as a still small voice and we know from scripture that the Holy Spirit counsels us and instructs us on how to follow God's will, I think the term "voice of Love" fits quite nicely.
This was just one small facet of how we can understand the relationship between God and the Holy Spirit and how we fit into all of it. It also provides a bit of background and justification for why I used the term "voice of Love" instead of "Holy Spirit" in my earlier post. I think it was a much better way to communicate the precise mode through which God motivates us to follow his will rather than fearing the world by allowing the world to control us.
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