Friday, September 9, 2011

Stewardship

The first “assignment” given in the world, as we read of it in the Book of Genesis, was given to adam (mankind), and it’s intent was that adam (mankind) should tend and care for the garden in which he was placed. So mankind was made steward of the earth and all that is within it. For thousands of generations that essentially meant that he was responsible for the natural world around him. I believe mankind is still bound to that stewardship and neglects its duties to its own hazard and to the hazard of the rest of creation.


With the coming of civilization many of us have less and less direct contact with, and responsibility for the natural world. It is, of course, still eminently important to us and we have not been released from our obligation as stewards of the earth though the means by which we fulfill our responsibilities to it are now less direct even if no less incumbent upon us.

But in human society there is more to preserve and protect than just the air we breathe, the water we drink, and ground we till. We live in a culture that is dependent upon certain elements remaining available and viable. Perhaps none is more important than language itself. The sounds, symbols, and gestures we use in communication are the foundation of our culture. We seldom consider the importance of our words; they are just a means to an end – “pass the potatoes, please,” “excuse me, I wasn’t looking,” etc.

The Biblical passage, John 3:16, and the verses that follow it are, arguably, the most well-known of all Christian Scriptures. In John 3:16 Jesus is quoted as saying, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” The passage goes on to say, “God sent not his son into the world to condemn it, but that the world, through him, might be saved.”

What is this “world” that the Gospel of John speaks about? The Greek word that the writer used was cosmos. Cosmos in the Greek lexicon refers to the social order of mankind. Other Biblical passages tell us that God is working to redeem the geos (earth itself), but in John’s Gospel the focus is on Jesus Christ’s mission to save the cosmos; to restore and preserve a broken social order. He does that through reconciling the world (cosmos) to Himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, one person at a time. It is a spiritual transaction resulting in a change in the heart of a man or woman that, in turn, affects the culture in which the reconciled person lives. Eventually, the apostle Paul tells us, the redemption of mankind will result in the redemption of all of creation, physical and cultural alike.

I believe that, just as adam was made steward of the “garden” of the earth, those born into the Kingdom of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, are made stewards of the cosmos that God is seeking to redeem through them. That stewardship takes many forms but none is more important than the guardianship of language. Language is the essential tool of human culture and it must be preserved (sometimes redeemed) in a form that communicates reality and truth if the cosmos is to function as God would have it do.

Thankfully there are many scholars, preachers, theologians, philosophers, philologists, scientist, poets, novelists, essayists . . . the list is almost endless . . . who are working faithfully and honestly to preserve the integrity of language. Words do not need to mean the same thing to all who use them, nor do they need to mean the same thing in all contexts, but they do need to communicate honest content or they are, at best gibberish, at worst destructive of the cosmos – creators of chaos.

As I have said above, there are many disciplines of life, in which the work of preserving and redeeming the integrity of language goes on. My interests lie mostly in theology and politics. I don’t pretend that my interests are the most important, although my focus suggest that I believe them to be of utmost importance. Most of the content of The Cottage on the Moor relates to either religion or politics. And most of it is an attempt to clarify meanings; to hold myself and others to account for the way we use language.

I intend to look, in future blogs, at the uses of language, particularly by politicians, political organizations, and the media that covers their activities, attempting to hold them to a standard, not only of truth, but also of clarity. My purpose is not to promote a particular political point of view but to ask that any point of view that is presented be first truthful, second faithful to the meaning of the language used, and finally stated without intended or unintended ambiguity.

I don’t wish to offend anyone but I’m aware that it is probably impossible to venture into things of this nature without doing so at times. Know that it is in the same spirit with which Jesus sought to redeem the cosmos (social order) that I am trying to preserve it as a steward of His work and His kingdom.

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