Have you ever sat in church or had a conversation with a Christian and wondered when they stopped speaking English? One second they’re speaking perfectly normal, then all of a sudden they start using strange words and you’re wondering if this is what Swahili sounds like. Just like any other group of people, Christians have their own lingo. Words and phrases that we use that are particular to us. And there’s usually nothing wrong with those words. But sometimes we forget to explain what they mean to the new guys. Or even worse, we use them ourselves without ever learning what they actually mean. Every now and again I stop myself and ask “What does this actually mean?”
A recent example of this is the word blessing.
I was reading Genesis 12:1-3 with someone. It’s a great passage that introduces us to Abraham and the promises God made to him. These three verses are not only key for the story of Abraham, but of the entire Bible. They establish God’s plans for his people.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
In those three verses, bless/blessing/blessed is used five times. It must be an important word. But what does it mean? Christians say things like “bless you” or “God has blessed me”. I sometimes get the impression that we use words like blessing because we know they are good words and we should use them. But that doesn’t mean that we actually understand them.
The first thing we can tell about blessing from Genesis 12 is that it’s the opposite of cursing. God will bless people who bless Abraham’s family and curse people who curse them. When you curse someone, you want bad stuff to happen to them. So therefore, it would be logical to assume that blessing has something to do with wanting good stuff to happen. Blessing is a positive thing. It’s something we want. I’m always in favour of having good things happen to me. In this passage, God is promising Abraham that he will receive good things.
But there’s more to it than God giving good things to Abraham and his family. Blessing is about being in relationship. Being in a right relationship. It’s being able to truthfully say that you are friends with God, that you are one of his people. That there’s no issues between you and God, nothing that would cause division or unrest. Receiving these good things is not the goal here. No, the more important thing is the relationship. Receiving good things from God is a happy consequence of being in the good books with the creator of the universe.
Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, we have been blessed. When he died on that cross for us, he did the impossible and mended the relationship between us and God. We went from God’s enemies to being his people. Because of this momentous act of Jesus, we know that God will look after us, both in this life and in the life to come. We look forward to the ultimate blessing we have been promised – life in the new creation where all the evil of this life has been destroyed and we get unhindered access to God. That’s a blessing that I can get behind!
So when we’re talking about how God has blessed us, what we’re saying is that God has accepted us and has welcomed us into a relationship with him. And that he has expressed that relationship by giving us good things. That doesn’t mean that everything will always be perfect in this life. But we know that we are on God’s side and at the end of days, we know where we will be standing.