What happens when the written word
is devoid of spirit.
[God] has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant — not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but Spirit gives life.
2Corinthians 3:6 NIV
The written word, in and of itself, is dead. Lifeless.
The heart and soul of the writer, the animated nature of an orator, drains right out when letters are strung into words to form sentences and laid to rest on paper.
Without knowing the author’s heart, words (even in a text or email) can be read in a way that leads to erroneous error and twisted translations.
Our own biases — cynicism, insecurity, pride—cause us to misinterpret the writer’s spirit behind the words resulting in unexpected gaps in communication and relationship. One spirit clashes with another over dead letters on paper or screens.
It’s just a fact. Something we need to be aware of, especially in this day and age where lifeless words are delivered more than ever through digital devices. Voices silenced, spirits suppressed, in communication via texts and emails, tweets and posts. Often sent or published hurriedly without much thought to how it might be read by the recipient. No quick review for typos or auto-corrected changes to your words. A deadly combination with the potential for deadly interpretations.
This has always been an issue with written words. We read between the lines. Make assumptions and perceive attitudes within never intended by the one who wrote.
It’s why Jesus came into the world. The Father sent the Son as the Word made flesh to give life to the letters of Scripture — to fill it with Spirit so we might gain life through it. Repair the gap between us and Himself. So we might no longer misunderstand Him.
With dead letters there is the temptation to use the words received for our own purposes. Make them fit with how we see things.
The danger in all reading is that words be twisted into propaganda or reduced to information, mere tools and data. We silence the living voice and reduce words to what we can use for convenience or profit.— Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book
It’s how the Pharisees made such a mess of things — focusing on the letter of the law and not the Spirit behind it.
Jesus called them out for twisting Scripture and using it for their own glory instead of glorifying God through it: Whitewashed tombs… hypocrites!
With His resurrection, Jesus made the Way for us to receive the Spirit behind and within God’s Word. The Holy Spirit gives life to all things, including written words. When we interpret God, life, and Scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit we are much less likely to get it wrong.
In Him, we too can help others understand God’s Word by living it. Making room for Scripture to fill our spirits and flesh-out the truth of His love in us and through us.
He has made us competent ministers of the new covenant…
Spirit gives life.
Understanding the power of dead letters, spirit-less words, should move us to take greater care in sharing written words with others. Especially with those who don’t know our hearts and aren’t familiar with our spirits.
And whenever you read another’s words, please remember to consider the spirit of the person who wrote them. How there is a possibility (dare I say, probability) you might not fully understand and misinterpret. Because the letters are dead, they can only be resuscitated to life by knowing the spirit behind them.
Holy Spirit give life to the words I write for others to read, the words I write for the Father’s glory and not mine. The words I write to help others know You more fully. Amen.
Have you ever considered how the written word is dead? lifeless?
Do you tend to make the words you read fit your way of seeing things? or do you attempt to understand the author’s intent?
When it comes to God’s Word, are you willing to give it life by living it? be the Word made flesh as Jesus was?
[Feature Image Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash]