Wait, so I have finally become a heretic right with a headline like that, right? It is perhaps a slight overstatement of my point but if I added the word “only” then I hope you would see my point entirely. A couple of days ago an article was going around the internet proposing that the Southern “Y’all” could help us move away from the independent “personal” approach to our faith that is so rampant throughout the English speaking world.
In the past we used “Thou” as a plural for “you” but unlike many languages, outside the Southern states of America there is no way of explaining whether you are speaking to an individual or to a group. So for example, as part of a family of seven, it is kind of crucial for me to know if someone says “you are invited to…” that I know whether they intended just me, or the whole lot of us! If I lived in the Bible belt, they would say, “Y’all are invited.” When speaking in the first person we use “I” or “We” and in the third person “He” or “She” and “They.” Only in the Southern states of the USA is it possible to communicate precisely what you mean when speaking in the second person. We are so familiar with this that it doesn’t even seem strange to us. But it would seem very peculiar to the writers of the Bible.
Interestingly, this word “Y’all” is also explained in the movie “God’s Not Dead” which releases here in the UK this Friday. Perhaps we would all do well to adopt this usage. All too often we read the Bible through individualistic eyes. We fail to see that it was written to the community of God’s people. If we read it in the original Greek we can pick up on where the writers intended us to see that it is US as a people that God is at work in. The short answer is that this is the case all over the place.
One way to easily study this, if ,like me, you only know a little Greek is to read the “Yall version” The results are striking. So, take just one passage. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 which in the “Y’all” version of the NET reads:
Think about the circumstances of y’all’s call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards,not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence. He is the reason y’all have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” READ MORE VERSES IN Y’ALL VERSION
Two things jump out immediately. First up, we are to consider the call of the entire community not just our own as individuals when we think about the way God has chosen us as a people who outwardly are not impressive to bring to shame the wisdom of the world. But secondly, it is not merely that each individual within the church has a personal relationship with Christ so much as that all of us corporately have that relationship together.
What does this mean? It means that you get to meet Jesus not just in your individual times with him, but also through seeing him at work through others in the body of Christ. It means that, as other Scriptures support, we ALL together are meant to reflect the multi-coloured wisdom of Christ. It means that if you want to pursue a relationship with Jesus, you will need to pursue a relationship with other members of his Body on earth. It means that each of us has a responsibility to help others relate to Jesus and know his love. This is a beautiful insight, just one of many the Y’all version may help us all to grasp.
God doesn’t want you to have a personal relationship with him. He wants you to have a corporate one. And he wants you to share him with others both inside and outside the church.
The heart of being a Christian is to obey the Great Commandments by Loving God AND loving our neighbour, and to obey the Great Commission by helping others to learn how to follow Jesus. We cannot do any of that on our own.