Dictionaries have a difficult job; they try to pin down the definition of a word. A dictionary takes a snapshot, catches a moment in time of a word’s etymology, but misses what it took to get there and won’t necessarily lead us where it’s going. In today’s excessive world, it seems even more difficult to keep up with meanings and the like, simply because they move faster than we can, but the notion of words carrying only what meaning we give them is nothing new. Shakespeare knew better. . .
Act II, scene II of Romeo and Juliet carries the girl’s great lament that illustrates the point so well when she says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” She could have called him Frank, and he didn’t have to be a Montague, she could have been Muriel, and didn’t have to be a Capulet.
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood
I hear the word Christian, and immediately, I make assumptions. I get behind a car with a Jesus fish on it, and rarely do I notice what the car is, but rather, I begin paying attention to what that car is doing and who’s in it. Words and names might not always carry the same meaning, but then again, they have the ability to define.
Experience gives us perceptions and biases. Too many people hear the word church, and they’re up in arms about something they didn’t like about it. Others hear the same word, and begin to picture some building they drive by. People outside the church rarely know or understand that the church is people, and it’s more than just a congregation, but includes all of God’s people. That word though, begins to define people. I worried about becoming a “Ned Flanders” after I became a Christian, because that was my perception of Jesus people.
Perhaps God chose for Jesus to be the Word because He knew that making that part of Himself become something like that was the best way to define His people. Once we apply that Word, Jesus Christ, to our lives, we’re defined differently than the world would choose to do so. God knew that attaching His name to us and putting His word in our lives would help us to understand who we are, and to set us apart. (1 Cor. 12:27, 2 Cor. 6:17, Gal. 1:15, Rom. 1:1)
I believe there is some subjectivity to the Word, but only in our perception. There is truth, and it is singular, but we have to work hard to find it. Others will disagree with us, and define the Word and themselves a different way, but we can’t know it all during this lifetime, we just have to try as hard as we can and search for truth, and allow ourselves to be defined by that truth and have confidence that God will correct us, or bring us around to what He wants us to be.