The power of “and”

“And” is a powerful word.

In order to understand why, Americans need to read Hebrews 11. But since many won’t, Christians in America should strive to demonstrate Hebrews 11 in our speech and in our use of social media.

Hebrews 11 is the “by faith” chapter. It explains and celebrates the ways in which many people in the Old Testament walked through the world “by faith.” These heroes of the faith show contemporary believers what faith looks like, how it acts, and the ways in which faith responds to trials, hardships, deprivations, unfulfilled longings, and hope deferred.

Among the men and women listed stand Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, and David. Each is described as living “by faith” and is presented as a commendable example of the kind of faith described in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

These men and women are, in fact, commendable. They did, in truth, exercise biblical faith during trying times and in diverse circumstances. Each modeled true faith.

And . . .

“And” is a potent word. It serves to connect things that otherwise might be held apart. It is sunny outside, and it is cold. “And” brings a fuller picture of truth than either statement alone could offer. It is not either sunny or cold. It is sunny and cold.

“And” is powerful.

Abraham modeled true faith, and he repeatedly lied, jeopardizing the life of his wife on more than one occasion. Sarah modeled true faith, and she laughed in disbelief when the LORD revealed to her that she would bear a son in her old age. Jacob modeled true faith, and he deceived his father, defrauded his brother, and swindled his uncle. Moses modeled true faith, and he murdered an Egyptian man, burying his body in the sand. Rahab modeled true faith, and she made her living as a prostitute before serving the LORD. Gideon modeled true faith, and he named his son “my father is king” even though God, not Gideon, was the King of Israel. Samson modeled true faith, and he broke the vows to God he had taken as a Nazarite. David modeled true faith, and he committed adultery with Bathsheba, thereafter arranging for the untimely death of her husband.

And. Each of these people both modeled true faith and committed great sins.

Our nation seems incapable of “and.” The notion that I can be in favor of lovingly protecting the lives of my neighbors and in favor of a robust economy at the same time seems lost on many people. But I like sunshine and I like a summer shower that relieves the heat. I trust God for provision and I work hard at my job. I think pepperoni and black olives belong on pizza. But not pineapple—that’s just an abomination. In any case, you get the point.

So Christian, when you speak and engage on social media, think about Hebrews 11. Christians should refuse to say, “Abraham was only sinful, not faithful.” We should likewise refuse to say, “Abraham was only faithful, not sinful.” Both are lies, because both neglect “and.” In the same way, our public discourse should include lots of “and,” as we refuse to lie or to pit one truth against another truth. I want to love my neighbor by not infecting him, and I want to love my neighbor by making sure he has a job. And.

In a world that has forgotten about “and,” you, Christian, remember to use its power, and use it often.

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