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Pastor of Morrow Presbyterian Church
John V. Callahan Jr.
The Pastor’s Pen
Read Deuteronomy 32:11-12 and Hebrews 12:3-11
BBC News had an article that was entitled, “The Greek word that can’t be translated.”The word is philotimo.The philo part has something to do with love, but what does the entire word mean?What emotions and thoughts does it evoke?
There is a hot debate among those who study the word.“Love of honor” is the official definition, but some say this is wrong.One scholar says it means, “Doing the right thing,’ while another say that it means, “Loving and honoring God and your society.”How about “striving for perfection” as the meaning?Or, could “stepping out from your comfort zone to help someone in need” be more specific?Who knows?“The word cannot be translated precisely to any other language,” says a lecturer in Ancient Greek philology. “All the same, philotimo has become one of the building blocks of the Greek disposition because of the unique standing of Greece in relation to what we call the West.”
How could such a small word mean so much to so many and yet be so confusing?When I read the article, I thought of the word God.Three letters, all different, G-O-D.That word also means so much to so many believers, and it might even bring some confusion.How do we define God?Can we define God?
God is given the names Lord, Creator, Almighty, Most High, and Abba.God is described as a Rock, a Shield, a Refuge, a Hiding-place, and a Fortress.There are so many more I haven’t listed – I don’t have the room – yet we still haven’t scratched the surface of defining God.The first paragraph of the Scots Confession says, “[God] is eternal, infinite, immeasurable, incomprehensible, omnipotent, invisible; one in substance and yet distinct in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” (The Book of Confessions, 3.01).Those are some big words, ones we may need to look up in a dictionary.But still they do not help us fully define God.All the words in all the languages of the world will not help us reach our objective.God is bigger than the word itself – God is too wonderful and endless to fit in a box.
Nevertheless, what is so amazing about God is that we may give God titles and descriptions and even jobs (Shepherd and Gardener, for instance) and never define God, but no matter, because this God of ours is knowable.Our God is approachable.Our God is interested in our lives and wishes to show how much He loves us.Moses once said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”And God said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you” (Exodus 33:18-19).We can never fully define God and yet we can get to know God in a rich and lively relationship.God reveals something about himself constantly, and we can grasp a bit of it through prayer, study, worship, and service.
What is also amazing is that God defines us.We may never define God (who God really is) but without God we have no definition.We have no description, we have no meaning, and we certainly have no existence.God knows us through and through.God created each of us as unique and special people.God, who is too wonderful and endless to define, gives name and value to our words, our thoughts, our actions, our very lives.There is no debating that.All one desires to do is rejoice in this limited knowledge and live for the One who is beyond words.