Words That Communicate, and Some That Don’t
I learned a new word last week. When I received my pathology results on my medical portal, it stated that the polyps removed from my colon, via colonoscopy, were “adenomatous.” Just before my pulse began to race, I read the next line of the results – “by definition, premalignant.” My first thought was that all my body parts were premalignant. In fact, I prefer premalignant over malignant. Then I realized how often we get anxious over big words we don’t understand. In other words, if it has a lot of letters in an unknown word, it might be bad. I almost panicked over “adenomatous” before I understood it to mean precancerous. We whose profession involves using theological words like justification, propitiation, millennial, transubstantiation, apologetics, pneumatology, eschatology, ecclesiology, dispensation, hermeneutics, transfiguration, etc. should ask ourselves if those to whom we communicate, understand our words, or do our big words, frighten and confuse them. My theology professor once said in class, “Never use a one syllable word, when a three syllable word is available.” I remember writing this statement in my class notes, then writing in the margin – “not sure I agree.” My calling is to communicate, not to impress, and certainly not to overwhelm. Unless, I am speaking to a group of post-graduate seminarians, I need to choose my words carefully. When Jesus spoke, the Bible records that those who heard Him, “marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (Luke 4:22). I want my words to be gracious, whoever is in the audience, but I also them to be understandable. I’m glad that, in addition to the big medical word, I received some gracious words that informed me that I don’t have cancer. That’s all I really needed to know.