The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest
There was an interesting, if not humorous, moment in the first session of the United States House of Representatives a few days ago. A bill was to be presented in that session which would require all language in the house to eliminate any reference to sexual identity such as words like him, her, his, she, he, mother, son, daughter, father and many more. So, I guess the Representative who gave the opening prayer thought he would give an example for the legislators to consider when he closed his prayer by saying the usual “amen.” Then he followed by saying “and a woman.”
I don’t know if the one giving the prayer was just trying to be funny or if he really thought he was being politically correct. But, of course, the combination of the two terms was completely off base. The word “amen” as used in prayer has nothing whatsoever to do with gender. It is a Hebrew based term meaning “so be it” or “let it be so.” It was used in the prayers of Old Testament and New Testament authors and characters at the close of prayers to ask God to take what they had uttered and give an affirmative reply or give it his confirmation.
As I listened to numerous commentators and religious figures in the media discuss the congressman’s misuse of the term, I began to think about how this term has often been misunderstood and even misused in Christian circles. When I was a youngster, I always thought the word “amen” when used in a prayer meant “THE END!” Or, as the Porky Pig would say at the end of the cartoon, “ebidy, ebidy, THAT’S ALL FOLKS!”
I’m afraid that the term has been carelessly thrown around as one of those “christianeze” words (insider words that only church people use and understand. Words like “saved” “blessed” “sanctified” “propitiation” and many others) How many times have you heard enthusiastic preachers end each sentence with "amen?" They use it with a question mark like, “AMEN?” Perhaps they are trying to get people to shout “amen” to what they just said. You may have heard the humorous statement, “Saying amen to a preach is like saying “sic’em” to a bulldog!” That’s cute, but what are they trying to say about the word? If you are saying that “amen” means, “I agree” or “that’s right” or “that’s the truth” why not just say those words? Why couldn’t the preacher ask, “do you agree?” instead of saying “amen?” It's almost like he wants to brag to his friends, "I got 30 amens to my sermon last Sunday." I’ve heard lines in sermons like, “the world is going to hell and fast, AMEN?” Is he asking me to say “so be it” as if I want the world to go to hell? No, I don’t think he wants that, but in this case he, and we, are misusing a good word out of the same ignorance as that of the congressman who said, “and a woman.”
My point is that we should be careful about our use of terminology, especially in the Christian world. It’s not like it will send us to hell, but it can lead to confusion for those who use certain words and for those who hear them. We should be careful about using insider religious words that shut out people who are not from our little religious club. Jesus was a man of the people. He spoke their language so he could connect with them on a personal level. He refused to play insider games with his vocabulary.
Before we look down on others who misuse Christian or biblical terms we should take a look at ourselves and ask, “do I use that word correctly?”
Just food for thought!
I’m looking forward to hearing Josh preach this Sunday morning. He is going to share a message on a subject that can never get too much emphasis, “Unity among Christ followers.” I know he’s been working hard on it and God has been working with him. So, I hope you will be there in person or on the stream. See you Sunday!