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Writing Feedback > Meaning by D.L. Herring

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 25, 2015 07:45AM) (new)

Introduction

One of my pet peeves is that people don't seem especially interested in the meaning of things. Ask anyone for a definition of the word love, and what you are most likely to get is: “love is like . . .” or “it's that feeling you get when . . .”.

Obviously, love is an issue central to most, but few will offer up an intelligible definition, if indeed, they know how to define, rather than explain. In an attempt to derive a more personal definition of the word, some years back, I went to the dictionary with an off-the-wall plan.

The plan involved a simple determination on my part, namely: to decide what seemed to be the key word within the definition. The subsequent steps were as follow: look up the definition of the key word, and then determine the key word of that definition. Many would have found the whole affair tedious and boring, but I persevered.

In the end, I completed a quite lengthy circuit that ended with the key word: 'love'. That is not to say that I ever achieved that personal definition I sought, but I did come away with a broader sense of the word. Ask another for that, or ask yourself. Would you be like the preacher faced with an unresponsive audience?

The preacher says 'love' – no 'amen' in return, only silence. Obviously, he had not made the word clear; he had not gotten across. So he takes a deep breath, and squeezes the word above the heads of his crowd like a trail of toothpaste: “LoooOoOvvVVeee!!!” The word comes out twisted and forced, as if that might somehow define the concept he wants to put forth. Silence. Blank faces. Now the preacher must pull out all the stops. The word booms forth like a canon shot, complete with echo, and poignant silence.

“LOVE!!!” (love, love, love) (shhhh) “Can I get an Amen?!” This you get, but no definition. Over the years, I have felt an increasing need for definition as a starting point of communication, and understanding. What if you and I were having a discussion that hinged on the definition of the word 'love'? Would we even be on the same page? I might have worked out that love is actually something more concrete than a warm fuzzy feeling, but you might still subscribe to the warm and fuzzy.

I might say: “stoic” or “austere” and you might only hear: “warm” or “fuzzy”. Now, I am not so much attempting to harp on that one word, or to assume a superior stance by comparison, but I do maintain the need for definition. That is the shape of things, after all, without the which we are left with nothing more than flab and fluff.

I have attempted, in my writings, to be more concise, and to strive toward an actual definition of the concepts I put forth. This writing finds me, once more, struggling with the issues of definition and effective communication. I used the word love as a lead in, as an example, but I have done no more than touch lightly upon it. Perhaps, I may come back to it. But, I wish to touch first on the broader implications.

We employ so many common expressions in our conversations, so many concepts that, at least to me, we seem to accept in an all too cavalier manner, as if none of it really matters. I see the possibility that it really does matter, and I hope there is someone somewhere who feels the same way. Let us strike up a conversation, and determine definitions together. Let us gather all our lambs into the pen and see which are mottled, ringstraked, or white.

One

While I began this writing with the word love, as an example, what actually prompted this was a curiosity for a Biblical expression used by Jesus, and that is what I would like to begin with in earnest. This is the expression: “straight and narrow”.

What is “straight and narrow”? Let's examine the full quote. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” That is found in Matthew 7:13-14.

An inspection of the variant spelling is called for. We normally compare the spelling of 'straight', which is used elsewhere in scripture, and the spelling of 'strait', as used in this particular passage, only to conclude that it is just more of that unintelligible King James stuff. Our response to such things is to immediately move on. Yet, there is something about the spelling of strait that should cause us to do a double-take.

I went to Wikipedia for clarification, as I often do. What I discovered surprised me. A strait is a narrow channel of water that connects two larger bodies of water, and that separates two bodies of earth. Another word for strait is 'passage'. I came away with three concomitant concepts: 'water', 'connection', and 'passage'.

It may be that the gate we are urged to enter has much to do with water. At this point, it may be an easy step to include the washing rituals of the early temple as well as the baptism ritual of Christianity. Water may thus be easily seen as the connection that joins two larger bodies. Here, we must think of the water of life connecting life to life.

Another point of interest, here, is the alternate application of the word 'passage'. It is possible that the gate through which we may enter is, in actuality, a Biblical passage, perhaps one concerning ritual washing, or baptism.

Such matters require due inspection. Again – permit me to return later to this topic in particular. I think the direction of this writing demands a broader scope, one that includes the many expressions and concepts of scripture we normally move past without much thought. Words, terms, and expressions, that cry out for definition, must be gathered, sorted, and approached topically.

But then, how would one ultimately derive a definition? Should common usage of a word or expression be settled upon, one must surely agree that 'common usage' is a fleeting sprite. It changes from age to age. Indeed, within my own lifetime, I have seen 'common usage' vary. The word 'gay' used to mean 'happy' – but sub-cultural connotations have altered that. Likewise, the word 'ain't' – formerly resisted tooth and nail – has been included into the lexicon of common use.

Should Biblical definition hold sway, modern definition might suffer loss. Our Bible puts forth the concept that we should not allow a witch to live. That was a standard that continued into the American colonies, where, in Salem Massachusetts, witches were burned and hung. We do not define witches as worthy of death in our modern day – application of law has altered the meaning in this case.

On the other hand, modern definition would negate much of what we hold dear as spiritual truth. Modern tendencies hold more with physical facts and figures that may be measured – more with affections and affectations that would villainize spiritual standards as harsh and cruel. Modern definition alone would be destructive by way of its non-confrontational, live-and-let-live attitudes.

As to the thoughts of our hearts, we must let reason have its way. Reason is a spiritual function that is not limited to 'modern' or 'Biblical' or 'common use'. Reason rises above them all, and includes what is good and right from each. We are simply not accustomed to such a synthesis, but whoever approaches an accurate definition must remain respectfully open-minded to each source and application.

I turn to the reader for suggestions. Is there a particular expression in the Bible that begs clarification? Is there a word or term that is overworked without due definition? Please make as many suggestions as you feel comfortable making. Thanks.


message 2: by Lena, Shot through the heart, and you're to blame (new)

Lena (lenakarynn) | 1526 comments Mod
Some great ideas and applications!


message 3: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Jappinen | 7 comments yeash i know im in a bible study right now and i learned love is not an emotion love is when you give someone something but you should not get it back in return i think thats what that means


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Want is another such word. I was an adult before I realized the definition of the word 'want' as used in the 23rd Psalm.


message 5: by Jason (new)

Jason Hein (jasonphein) | 216 comments Mod
I have heard about love. Agape love is doing what is best (from God's point of view) for another person.

That is very interesting. What is the word want?


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi, Jason. I used to read the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . ." and I would ask myself, well -- why wouldn't they want him? Seemed a kind of negative beginning for a Bible verse.

Due largely to where I was raised, we only had one definition for the word, want -- that being to desire or crave. I might say I want some candy, or I don't want to go to school.

Later in life, a whole new level for that word opened up for me. I discovered that another definition for the word, want, was need. "I shall not want" then, could be understood to mean: 'I shall not be in need'.

Made me realize what I had missed in earlier readings. Made me wonder what else I had misunderstood.


message 7: by Jason (new)

Jason Hein (jasonphein) | 216 comments Mod
Ah, gotcha. Yes, very good point!


message 8: by Anne (new)

Anne Caitlin (annebcaitlin) | 74 comments If you don't mind me adding my own opinion, I think that there are 3 kinds of love; 1 is agape love, which is doing the best for the other; ie self-sacrificial love. 2) is the "touchy feely" love that most people think of; the emotional kind (not saying that the other 2 kinds of love are unemotional; I hope you get what I mean). 3) is the friendship love.

Good job researching and taking the time and energy and patience to look through this! It is good to do so ;)


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