Ok, confession time...I hated grammar in school. My wife loves it, and that's one of the things she teaches, so when the girls have a grammar homework question, I send them to their mom. I mean, I'm decent at it, and can write and speak in complete sentences, but I don't like it. It does, however, intrigue me at times.
I love to read, and since there is no way to judge the amount of emphasis being placed on a statement by voice or facial expression, a reader is left only with punctuation as a guide. Sure, sometimes the written words themselves give you an idea of the passion behind them, but most of the time all we have is punctuation. A comma is a yellow light, slow down and take a look around. A period means stop and take a breath, but an exclamation point is a lot more passionate.
This holds true for practically all of our writings, except for those written in other languages and translated into English...like, oh, I don't know, scripture maybe? I'm not a Greek scholar by any means. In fact, I've never formally studied Greek, but I do know that much of our New Testament was spoken originally in Greek or Aramaic (I know even less about Aramaic). Therefore all of what we have in the New Testament, (the gospels, Paul's letters, etc) has been translated from another language. I actually think that's kind of cool.
Paul had a way of letting us know just how passionate he was about some of the statements he made. He used a phrase over and over again, and honestly, if it had not been brought to my attention in seminary, I probably wouldn't have noticed it..."Me genoito!"
More than likely you have never seen "Me genoito" printed in your bible. I hadn't. But you have seen the English translation..."By no means!" Fourteen times Paul uses that phrase, and I have to say, even though I don't always agree with him, his use of "Me genoito" earns him my respect. Here's why...
He was passionate enough about what he believed to not only throw the ideas out, (usually in the form of a rhetorical question) but he was passionate enough to add this little gem as part of the answer. Now, "by no means" is really a weak translation. The translation I was taught for this phrase in seminary is more like, "Hell no!" Since we can't have Paul using language like that, it's better to go with "By no means." That's not nearly as offensive.
What this means to me today is that maybe I can let Paul guide me in how I express my faith. I promise, I will not start using profanities to make a point, but I just might start living an exclamation point faith. I just might be more apt to voice my beliefs, and then stick by them. I give Paul a lot of grief sometimes, but one thing he wasn't was spineless. He knew what he believed, was not afraid to preach Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, wasn't afraid to call a spade a spade, was not afraid to take a beating for his faith, and wouldn't back down when the heat was turned on. I like that.
The question now becomes, how can I live an exclamation point faith without ticking off everyone I talk to? Because, honestly, Paul wouldn't stand a chance today. We are much too easily offended. How can we stand up for what we believe, show folks that we actually care about this thing we call the Christian walk with the whole "love God with everything you are, and love your neighbor as yourself" thing, and that we are serious about our role as kingdom workers without offending? Passion tempered with love. We can be passionate about who we are and what we believe, and at the same time, respect where others are in their spiritural journey. We have to meet them where they are if we ever want to bring them to where we all need to be.
And that is why I'm going to focus on leading an exclamation point life tempered with love. Will you join me? We don't have to agree on everything, in fact, we probably won't, and that's ok. But can we covenant together to become more passionate about our faith, and be more willing to let the world know just how strongly we feel about who we are as children of the Living God? Was that a "yes"? I can't say for sure, but I think I just heard the gates of hell rattle a little.