Second Person Blues: English is a language of contradictions. It has a wider vocabulary and more synonyms than any language on earth, yet fails to distinguish between the plural and singular “you.” Whether we hail a bunch of guys or one guy, we’re stuck with that single pronoun. For those without knowledge of the original Greek, our understanding of the Bible is handicapped. The confusion is compounded by a rule of grammar that we must say “you are,” whether we mean one or many. “You is,” is verboten. Greek, like every language I know, makes a clear distinction between second person singular and plural, also called the collective “you.”

Who is the Light?  To illustrate this, consider Jesus’ statement, “You are the light of the world.” (Mt 5: 14 NASB). Jesus uses the Greek humeis {hoo-MAYS], the plural pronoun, not tu [too], the singular. Further, He uses esta, the Greek verb for “you (all) are,” Like other Greek verbs, its form tells us the person (2nd) and number (plural). The pronoun humeis isn’t required, yet Jesus uses it. My Greek grammar explains why: when the pronoun is used with the verb, it’s for emphasis. So, a literal translation would read, “You all are the light of the world, no one but you all.” He clearly meant you all together, not separately, are His light.

I repeated Jesus’ quote to my friend Doug, and asked, “Who is this light?” He replied, ‘I guess I would say ‘me’.” Most of us would. Our culture and language dictates it. When we read “you,” we naturally assume it to be singular, “me” not “us.” We sing “This little light of mine”, never “ours”. It’s our cultural blind spots. From our cultural perspective, the individual always trumps the collective.

I then asked my friend, “Are you going to light up the world all by your lonesome?”  Seeing the absurdity of this, he grinned.  Of course his little light can never light up this world’s darkness. Then who is the light?  It’s still His great light, but now shines through His collective body, the church. We see the same misunderstanding in these texts: You [pl.] are  the salt of the earth. (Mt 5:13 NASB) and “…Let your (pl) light shine before men; that they may see your (pl) good works, and glorify your (pl) Father who is in heaven (Mt 5: 16 NASB).

It Takes a Team. It’s a big, dark, skeptical world we live in. Even a billion lights, scattered here and there, can’t pierce the enemy’s darkness. But the Lord has a people who can, His body, the church. When we unite our lights, we possess a collective dynamic, we do teamwork. (See our posts on It Takes a Team). Teams accomplish great things, which individuals can’t.  It wasn’t a great person who got us to the moon, but a great team.  Consider the lighthouse lens. It can focus a single flame, exploding its brightness for miles into a brilliant, life-saving beacon.  Jesus’ church can be like that, if and when we bring our lights together.

Doesn’t it make sense for us to come together, both in our separate fellowships and with other congregations? Together we could light up our neighborhoods in a way we could never do as separate lights. Let’s face it, most churches are not lighting up their world. In fact, our neighbors tend to ignore us, partly because our witness is divided, with single congregations going it alone. Together we can make a dent and start taking back God’s territory from that raging lion, the devil.

Christians vs. That Roaring Lion. The first church had great unity and as a result had a great reputation. St. Luke often used the Greek word, homothumadon, to describe them. It means they were of one mind, with one accord. They faced the world, good and bad, as God’s bunch. As a result, Luke says, ”all the people respected them,” just as Jesus predicted.  You can read his predictions for yourself in John 13:33,34; John 17:21,22.

The united witness of these early disciples had crowds saying, “These that have turned the world upside down are come here also. (Acts 17:6 ASV) A writer of the second century observed, “Look at those Christians, how they love one another!” Filled with the Spirit, united with Jesus and each other, their individual lights coalesced and shone brightly into their dark world. In three centuries this witness of love and light vanquished an empire and overthrew the pagan gods. By the fourth century, the church had slavery and the cruel arena games on the run. In those same arenas, many believers had died for Him, but now the score was Christians 10, the devil lion, zero.

Let’s do it again!

Have you always thought that most of Christ’s “you” statements were directed to you individually?  Or did you realize that so many of Christ’s examples meant “you all” as a church can do it together?  Let us know.