God, The Church, and Grammar

So as it turns out, different words have different functions.  Who knew.  And despite the best efforts of my English teachers and Schoolhouse Rock, I still have no idea what a gerund is, though it is fun to say.

(I never did understand why they showed us those Schoolhouse Rock movies and never tested us on the songs.  I would have aced it!  “Conjunction-junction what’s your function!” But I digress).  It occurred to me as I read a few blogs and Facebook posts about God and His Church that maybe I wasn’t the only one getting some sleep during my grammar lessons.  God and grammar?  Yes.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized that this was something that had been nagging at the back of my mind every time I read a Facebook debate.

Transitive Verb: A verb expressing a doable activity (like kick, want, paint, write, eat, clean, etc.) that must have a direct object, something or someone who receives the action of the verb. [Examples: Sam kicked Jim. Kicked = transitive verb; Jim= direct object. Joshua wants a cookie from Emily. Wants = transitive verb; cookie = direct object]

INtransitive Verb: Conversely, an intransitive verb (like arrive, go, lie, sneeze, sit, die, etc.) does not need a direct object receiving the action. [Examples: We arrived at the classroom door. Arrived = intransitive verb. James went to campus. Went = intransitive verb]

Often when we talk about God and His Church we unknowingly use transitive verbs and as important as those verbs are, what is equally is important is the object receiving the action.  If you are being reasonable, you can see that there is no good quality or bad quality to be found in a transitive verb.  Reread the examples above.  ‘Kick’ is not good or bad.  Everyone would agree.  But when we use cultural buzzwords everything changes.  We all know that love is good and hate is bad, don’t we?  Errrr.  Wrong.  Love is not good and hate is not bad.  These are transitive verbs with no object.  Acceptance is not good and exclusivity is not bad.  Again…transitive verbs without an object.  Everything hinges on the direct object receiving the action.  Loving your spouse is righteous and good.  Loving mass genocide is evil and wrong.  Notice…same verb.  If we want to be more like God our Father, we will make sure that the right verbs match up with the right objects meaning there are things we should love (Matt. 22:37-39), things we should hate (Prov. 6:16-19, 8:13), things we should accept (Acts 2:41), and things we should exclude (Ps. 119:118).

I hear so often that we, as Christians, should love and that we shouldn’t hate.  The begging questions are obvious. “Should love…what?”  “Shouldn’t hate…what?”

I read on blogs and Facebook that God wants Christians to be accepting and welcoming, not exclusive and elitist.  You may read that and want to respond with a hearty “Amen!”  But, as of yet, you don’t know what you’re “amen-ing.”  What makes exclusive bad?  If our churches are being exclusive about, say, communion on the grounds of…how well you can roller skate, then, I agree, being exclusive is evil and wrong.  However, if our churches are being exclusive about communion on the grounds of repentance of sin and trusting in Jesus alone for salvation, then, I disagree, being exclusive is righteous and Biblical.  On the flip side of all this, what makes accepting good?  The question must be asked, “Accepting of what and why?”

We must not fall into the cultural trap of assuming that these verbs are either positive or negative when separated from the object.  These terms are meaningless by themselves.  Great care must be taken when we speak and write especially when it’s in relation to God and His Bride, the Church.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect and I had to do (too much) research on the small bit of grammar in this post. What can I say?  I went to public school.


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