Human languages each contain certain words that are more powerful than others. Love. Hate. Hope. Lie. Innocence. Go. Am/Is/Are/Was/Were… Colts… Drums… you know, words that carry more weight than others.
I’m beginning to think maybe other than “love,” the word “but” might be one of the most powerful words.
Think about it… If I said to my wife, “Wow, honey. You look amazing this morning, but…” every person reading this would say something like, “Noooo! Do not go in there!!”
The word “but” changes the entire course of a thought, rhetorical argument, or sentence. With that one word, everything that comes before is suddenly cast in a much less significant light, if not negated entirely. Your employer could give you a whole slew of positives, but the second she or he pulls out the word “but…” you know it’s going to be one of those conversations.
The cool thing is the word works the same in the other direction. I could say, “Honey, I know we’ve had a really rough morning and we’re both at our wits end, but…” and the whole conversation can turn just that quick. And the dime it turns on is the word “but.”
I guess that’s why I really like what happens in Romans 3. Paul has spent nearly 2 chapters making the case for how fried everyone is. Jew, Greek, following the law, not following the law, it doesn’t matter. By the middle of Romans 3, everyone finds themselves as objects of God’s wrath and judgment:
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who has understanding,
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
there is no one who shows kindness,
there is not even one.” (3:10b-12 NRSV)
Paul makes it very clear we’re headed for disaster. All of us, whether we want to admit it or not, are totally hosed.
(Did your mindset just change? Mine did writing it just now.)
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe… (vv. 21-22a)
Wait a second. Insert screeching car breaks noise here. We are all totally condemned… but now God’s righteousness has been revealed for all who believe.
I think that’s why it’s one of the more important words in language. That one word becomes the hinge between darkness and light, death and life, Good Friday and Easter, the grave and… resurrection.
I think sometimes I lose track of the “but.” Sometimes I become so accustomed to the dark times we’ve experienced that I forget God has the final Word, and his Word to all of us includes a life-changing, all-encompassing, thunderous explosion of life and love that goes something like this: We are dead to the world… but alive in Christ.