How strong is your vocabulary? Take this quiz to find out. A robust vocabulary can be an advantage in life, or at least it is in Scrabble or Words with Friends. Some people enrich their words by doing crossword puzzles, others by learning a word a day, or by reading (my preferred choice).
I know the definitions of the following four commonly used words; however their meanings have taken on a far richer significance as my faith has grown. I suspect there is more to be discovered.
Vocabulary Word #1: Grace
C.S. Lewis is reported to have walked into a conversation between theologians about what distinguishes Christianity from other world religions. When told what they were debating, he said, “Oh, that easy. It’s grace.” End of discussion.
One definition of grace is: “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” That is quite a mouthful. I understand all of those words, but I’m not sure I’ll ever fully appreciate, in this life, the boundless grace that God extends to me. It still astonishes me.
Lately, I’ve been pondering Romans chapter 8, and the first four verses speak explosively of God’s grace:
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us…” (Romans 8:3-4, emphasis mine)
It is stunning that the law, with all of its intricate requirements, is fully met in a sinner like me. Only by the grace of God can that be true.
Vocabulary Word #2: Love
Everyone knows what love is, right? Yet everyone has a different experience and understanding of love. My husband brought home a big bunch of red roses for Valentine’s Day, because he knows I love them. But roses by themselves would never be enough. My husband shows his love for me daily in many ways, and hopefully I do the same for him. Our love has grown, and my knowledge of the word love has expanded, through the love shown to me by my family and friends.
Even so, human love is never perfect. God’s is. God is love (1 John 4:7-12). God’s love is over and above even the purest human love. The more we love God and experience the love of God, the more the word love will expand in our lives.
God’s love doesn’t always mean a problem free life; sometimes our challenges are exactly what (eventually) enrich our lives. Sometimes our understanding of love will expand into difficult territory. Many people live in miserable conditions in this world, but that doesn’t change God’s love for them. Love is complicated, but I have learned that I can always count on the love of God.
Vocabulary Word #3: Humility
As I better understand God’s grace and his love, the meaning of the word humility is becoming amplified in my life.
Humility, according to Merriam Webster, is “the absence of any feelings of being better than others.” However, humility according to Jesus is something more complex than the dictionary definition. Humility means becoming like a little child (Matthew 18:2-4). It means doing absolutely nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit (Philippians 2:3). It means taking the role of a servant voluntarily, even when it is difficult (Mark 9:35). Humility is giving up all self-congratulation.
My understanding of the word humility has expanded to the degree that my pride has contracted. I am learning to depend fully on Jesus to accomplish anything of value and that there is a great gulf between my perception of humility and what Jesus modeled and desires for us. Humility is not a particularly easy word to learn, but because of God’s grace and his love, it’s possible.
Vocabulary Word #4: Hope
I hope it doesn’t rain; I hope I’m not getting sick; I hope the Cubs win the World Series. Those uses of the word hope are different from the biblical use of the word in that one cannot be confident of success. It might rain, and the Cubs may never win a World Series.
Biblical hope is hoping with confident expectation. There are many things in this life that I hope for: good health and success for my family and me; the end of wars, disease, and violence; for God’s people, the Church, to do their work well in this world. Those are just a few of my hopes, and I know that they will not all be realized this side of heaven. Biblical hope is an extended hope; it demands a longer view I have confident hope of a glorious future (Romans 5:1-5).
Romans 8:23-25 says,
…we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (emphasis mine)
The heavenly existence and glorious, redeemed bodies in which we hope have not been fully revealed to us, therefore we can only hope. I’ll try to wait for it patiently, in humility, while enjoying the love and grace of God.