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Singular You vs Plural You

March 17, 2014

by Lynne Most

Of all the wonderful truths we looked at a few weeks ago, I was especially struck by the fact that throughout scripture, “you” in the singular appears far less than “you” in the plural – and how this affects our perspective. So I did some digging and it turns out there are at least 4,720 verses (2,698 in the Hebrew Bible and 2,022 in the Greek) with “you” plural translated as English “you” singular.

This is unfortunate because it inadvertently leads a reader to think what’s being said is directed at him or her personally rather than the Church as a community. And as I began to look up some of these verses and read them as they were intended, I realized how often and unknowingly I applied those many verses to me, myself and I – alone, completely missing the intended impact and implications of being part of the larger body of Christ.

This is important because it really gets at the heart of unity. When we truly see the Church – our distinct body as well as the Church universal – as Jesus sees and thinks of it:  One body – His body – and not just as individuals – this demands and ultimately brings the unity Jesus prayed for as recorded in John 17. This perspective effects everything doesn’t it: how we hear, interpret and apply the scriptures, as well as how we pray and live.

A simple and honest heart-check makes the point:

  • Is what I think, need and prefer individually more important to me than what we think, need and prefer collectively?
  • Do I pray for my own (us 4 and no more) needs more than I pray for the needs of the corporate body?
  • Are my time and resources predominately focused on me and my family instead of the body of Christ?

I believe we urgently need a paradigm shift. Instead of the emphasis on the individual we need an emphasis on the church as a community. Somehow, we’ve got to remove the “Adamic” and culturally embedded filter of “me” and recover the Biblical perspective of “we.” Like Linda Killat said, “So instead of asking and thinking: “How are YOU doing?”, we should be asking and thinking: “How are WE doing?”

But how, when I don’t know by heart which verses intend “you” as singular and which are “you” plural? Well, it turns out someone has already solved this problem! Not only has a Google Chrome plugin been created that identifies each and every instance of a plural “you,” you also get to choose whether it renders “ya’ll” (for Southerners), “you guys” (Northerners and Mid-Westerners) or “yinz” (Pennsylvania) depending on your locality. I’ve installed it and I love it!! You can too:

“I am the vine; [you guys] are the branches. If [you guys] remain in me and I in [you guys], [you guys] will bear much fruit; apart from me [you guys] can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If [you guys] remain in me and my words remain in [you guys], ask whatever [you guys] wish, and it will be done for [you guys]. This is to my Father’s glory, that [you guys] bear much fruit, showing [you guys] selves to be my disciples.” John 15:5-8 [Texas Bible Google Chrome Extension]

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