U is for Us

Up in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan, “Yoopers” have a distinct dialect. They greet visitors with, “How are yous guys today?”

Down in Texas, where the southern drawl is thick, guests are welcomed with, “How are y’all today?”

I regret that my Midwest English (and the English translations of our Bibles) doesn’t distinguish between singular and plural when it comes to “you.” The northern Yoopers and the southern drawlers might have a real advantage there.

One thing Americans are known for, whether from the north, south, east or west, is an independent, go-it-alone, self-reliant, individualistic mindset. So we often make a mistake when reading the Bible. As Lois Tverberg points out,

English speakers have a habit of reading every “you” in the Bible as if it’s addressed to “me all by myself” rather than “me within God’s larger community.”

In the Jewish way of thinking, faith is built around doing life with people and is inherently communal. In other words, the “you” is almost always plural. They think in terms of “we” instead of “me”.

When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, He started with “Our Father”, not “My Father”. He used “us” and “our”, not “me” and “my”. The early church was famous for its devotion to fellowship, communal prayer and sharing meals together in each other’s houses. The New Testament writers continued the theme:

  • But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)
  • If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)
  • For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)
  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
  • See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

Yes. Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.
But we mustn’t forget that Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (Eph. 5:2)

I’d sure like to do something about all those plural “you”s in the scriptures. Perhaps a new translation of the Holy Bible is in order. It would sound something like this:

Yous guys are the salt of the earth.
Y’all are the light of the world.

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “U” is US.

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