Monday, November 22, 2010

Decoding Law Usage in Modern Language

7. "Have to", "Got to", "Ought to", "Need to", "Should", and "Must"

Along with their Southern Baptist cousins "Havta", "Gotta", "Otta", "Needta", and "Shoulda", these words are all verbs and verb phrases. Verbs--as I'm sure you learned in grammar class--are action words. Now when one thinks of the Law, one thinks of direct verbs that you use when you want to form a good imperative phrase. An imperative phrase is a command... which is Law. "You start acting right." and "You repent!" This is obviously Law and, when we think of Law preaching, we invision some red-faced parson yelling these kinds of phrases at his parishoners with a finger wagging.

But it doesn't just stop there. Verbs can be used to make all kinds of phrases. How about an indicative phrase? Indicatives are descriptive statements. Here's a good example: "Fathers should be spending time with their kids." Or here's one: "The people of this church are a people who care about the poor." Now one wouldn't think that phrases in the indicative mood are Law exactly. That's not "fire and brimstone" stuff. It's just good advice and descriptive phrases, right? Indicative mood isn't Law, right? Check out your Ten Commandments:

1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not murder.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

...well what do you know! The LAW of Moses is all indicatives! They aren't in the command mood at all, but are--in fact--descriptions of what good behavior looks like. And yet the Law always accuses... because you do not meet this discription, do you? That's the implied imparative inside of most Law-based indicatives. Everyone knows the mom who uses the indicative, "We don't curse in this house." The command is implied. She is saying, "Stop cursing!"

So when a pastor says, "Fathers should be spending time with their kids." The implied command is "Take care of your kids!" When a pastor says, "We need to be a people who care deeply about lost people." The implied command is, "Get off your lazy butt and go care deeply about lost people."

If it has to do with human action the statement is Law no matter how it's worded. When understood and analyzed, we find that most churches these days are actually 90% or more about Law and Law-related concepts.

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