Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Luke 11:34, 35 The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.

When was the last time you heard or read (in a serious interview, news report, or public conversation) the words “jail” or “penitentiary”? Those words basically have been replaced with the appropriate “correctional facilities.” How often do you hear words like “crazy” or “handicapped”?

Remember when “gay” was a “good word” referring to an innocent, wonderful time? Years ago Joyce and I were visiting a congregation in a distant state. A large group was to eat together at a place requiring a reservation. Even with a reservation, a wait was required. When our group was called, they called for “the Chadwell party.” I was a bit surprised. Then our hosts (friends from the past) whose name was Gaye turned to me and said, “You didn’t expect us to have them call for the ‘Gaye party,’ did you?”

It is amazing how words have disappeared from common vocabulary, or have been redefined, or have become acceptable, or have come into existence within the last 30 to 50 years and are now common vocabulary words.

Since language is alive and reflects a society as it is, the fact that words change is a good thing if changes bring improvements in concepts and communication. To me, the key is seen in the word “improvements.” I certainly realize what is an “improvement” may involve a truly subjective response. Virtually no reality exists that does not offend someone. We can pursue good self-images with such a passion that we ignore reality. Should I feel good about myself when I actually need to recognize and address some major flaws evident in who and what I am?

We cannot define ourselves into righteousness. The Isaiah statement came in a series of highly unpopular “woes” declared to self-professed godly people. By their concepts, they were very godly people. By God’s concepts, they behaved in deplorable ways. They were godly people in their own eyes because they swapped the meaning of words.

The people who lived in Luke’s world feared darkness. Good things happened in daylight; bad things happened in darkness. Jesus said the worst kind of darkness is the darkness that occurs inside the person. He warned, “Do not shut out light, because if you do you only intensify the darkness.”

I deceive myself, not God, when I seek to transform my lifestyle and behavior by redefining words instead of changing the way I live.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 9 June 2005

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