Mixed Pronouns

Thursday, February 25, 2010
WARNING: this one may get a little grammary.

As many of you know, I don't have excellent grammar. That is to say that the grammar around here is generally deplorable. However, I think I know the difference between "We," "You," and "I."

I think.

These three, however, do get confused. They get especially confused, for some reason, when scripture is read. For example, here's a verse I read today:

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. -- 1 John 5:2

My first thought, as a teacher of the scriptures thinking through how I might teach this verse to others, was, excellent, here is a test to determine if people in our church love each other.

Here's why it's better to read the Bible with the Holy Spirit. In less than 1.352 of a second* God helped me realize that I had switched the word "we" with the word "you."

Here's how I did that.

John says we, "we know that we love the children of God," but when I make it about others I am really saying "you."

This verse isn't about determining how much, or to what extent, others love me. It is about determining to what extent I love others. I am supposed to ask myself, do I love God and obey His commands? I am not to worry whether others are asking themselves the same question--that is between them and God. I can only ask the question of myself.

That's why it's important that it is continued to be read as "we."

"You" changes scripture, turns the reader into a judge, and incites conflict.

It seems like a simple think to switch a few pronouns around, but it can have huge consequences. And all this causes me to wonder where else I have changed "we" to "you." Where else have I twisted things, ever so slightly, to be about others and not about myself?

*can you tell I've been watching a lot of Olympic coverage? Those thousandths of a second count big time.