The oxford comma is a controversial little piece of grammar. I, personally, am a fan. For those who may not know, the oxford comma is the last comma used in a series of items. It may seem like an unimportant detail, but it can clarify a writer’s intent and keep misunderstandings from happening.
The people I look up to the most are my parents, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. The meaning of this sentence may leave readers believing I’m delusional. The Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny are my parents? One comma makes a huge difference. Try it again. The people I look up to the most are my parents, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. Admittedly, I still seem a little crazy if I consider the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny people to look up to, but at least I don’t think they’re my parents in the second scenario. The oxford comma can be the difference in understanding my message clearly or being left to interpret it in an unintended way. I prefer to keep my message as clear as possible.
Misunderstanding wouldn’t be devastating in the silly example above. Many times, a misunderstanding can produce embarrassing results that turn into stories friends can laugh over in years to come. But there are times when having a proper understanding of things can make all the difference in the world.
Christy Kane, the main character from Colorblind by Amy C. Blake, learns this lesson the hard way. Christy’s father is her hero. He’s the one who has been there for her every step of the way, encouraging her in her pursuits. As the pastor of a mega-church, he is also the one who has taught her who God is and what it means to be a Christian. Her life revolves around what he considers the driving force of Christianity; that our happiness makes God happy. A life of peace and success awaited her and other believers simply because they loved God. Sin and the need for salvation were only things used to weigh down believers and keep them from knowing true success in life. Her whole outlook on faith and life were shaped by these beliefs.
Her devotion to her father is what makes the fall even harder when his affair is made public. Add to that charges of embezzlement, and Christy is devastated. Not able to face her father or his God, Christy goes to complete a summer internship with a distant relative she’s never met. Her future is up in the air, and her faith is shaken to the core. Yet in the middle of the pain, discord between the other summer volunteers, and mysterious happenings that echo events of the past, Christy is faced with the idea that her father’s faith may have been less than what God intended.
Christy fights against statements that her father is preaching a gospel not found in scripture. She may not feel it at the moment, but she does love him. He’s her father. She is convinced he only preached the truth. However, with events working out like they are in her life, Christy is finally able to consider the possibility that her father’s beliefs may not be as grounded as she’s always thought. God uses her painful circumstances to open her heart to searching out the truth of scripture for herself.
It’s these misunderstandings of scripture that can make a huge impact in our lives. When we base our values and lifestyles off faulty or partial understandings of scriptures, we build our lives on shifting sands. When the storms come, it can wash away our faith completely. This is why 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Then in 2 Timothy 2:15 we are encouraged to “Be diligent (study) to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” There is a right way to handle scripture and a wrong way. God has given us scripture so we can “renew our minds” and be “transformed” into His image as Romans 12 tells us. This doesn’t come from handpicking the verses which seem to fit our ideas of who God is and what He desires of us. It takes dedicated study of the Word in its entirety. It takes a willingness to open our hearts and minds to ideas that we may initially find hard to swallow. It requires more than reading for knowledge or to check off our daily list of good Christian behaviors. It takes reading God’s Word with the desire to listen to His message and apply it to our lives.
When we take time with God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will teach and convict us of the truth. We will be able to see the false teachings in the world and even in some of our churches and church leaders. We will come to understand more of who God really is and be protected from believing the teachings of those who have misunderstood and mishandled the Word in order to make God in their image rather than letting Him remake us in His.
By the Book: When was the last time you spent time searching God’s truth with an open heart on a subject you have a hard time accepting?