I DON’T THINK I’ve been as surprised by the Bible in any writing project I’ve ever done before this one, paraphrasing the Casual English Bible.
It’s because I don’t just read what the Bible says and report it, like I’ve done in the stack of books I’ve written. Here, I have to kick the fireman up a notch on the ladder.
I have to put the words into what I think is the way folks talk today. Well, the way I talk, if no one else.
I’ve been working on putting Paul’s letters into casual English. He’s great with one-liners.
One caught me by surprise last week.
It has to do with how we talk.
If I said something like, “Uncle Willard puts a lot of seasoning on his words,” what would you think I was saying?
I might be saying he could out cuss your cussing cousin, your cussing cousin’s wife, and the leader of the free world on the ride home after the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner and roast.
But that’s just me.
Paul has different seasoning in mind.
Here’s what he told a group of Christians living in a small town he had never visited in the middle of what is now Turkey.
“When you talk, put some seasoning on your words: charm.”
Colossians 4:6, Casual English Bible
Some Bibles translate the word as “grace.” That’s fine. But I think “charm” fits nicely, too.
For those of us keeping up on the news, here and abroad, there’s a lot of not-so-charming talk going on around us.
Maybe that’s why Paul’s one-liner stopped me and raised my eyebrows.
I’ll confess, I get angry when I read some of the news. A lot of the news, these days.
When I kick back in the evening to relax, Buddy the Dog will come and lay down beside me. I’ll sometimes take my phone to start reading the day’s news on my news apps: Kansas City Star newspaper, New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, BBC…you get the idea; I used to be a newspaper journalist. All I have to do is read something that makes my blood pressure rise. I don’t say a word, charming or otherwise. I just read, think, and feel. And in that very instant when the anger wells up, it happens.
Buddy the Dog gets up and leaves the room.
I try to call him back.
“It’s okay, Buddy. I’m sorry. I won’t get upset. I promise.”
He’s left for the night.
He won’t be back until dawn.
People aren’t quite that sensitive; they usually need to hear the words. And when they do, they leave. One way or another.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times to speak bluntly. Especially to people in positions of power who exploit the comparatively powerless.
But I think that more often than not, words are best seasoned with charm.
Especially when spoken from the mouths of people who are fond of Jesus.
(I hope to post Colossians online later this week).