A Theology of Ya’ll
Biblical theology is a theology of Ya’ll (or if you’re a northerner, “youse guys,” remembering that in this locution “guys” is generic). Since I’m a southerner, I’ll stick with “ya’ll.”
In a “Me, Myself, and I” world this is a serious matter. Before we even open the book we have a barrier to understanding it because of the world we have been socialized into. The kind of faith we have in our part of the world is that of the individual relating to God as an individual. Church for many of us is an optional extra, a help if we need it. Alone with Jesus in the garden is an image that resonates deeply with many of us.
The basic thrust here is that the Bible speaks to and about the community, Israel and the church. Most of its imperatives (commands) are issued to the above in the 2nd person plural (ya’ll) not “you” singular. Even when the singular “you” is used, often it is for rhetorical reasons. That is, it speaks to the individual “you” to stress that what has been commanded or instructed is for “every” you. In short, for the whole community.
Realizing this, it makes more sense to us to read things like the Beatitudes, the fruit of the Spirit as addressed to the community. Not every person will have each of these qualities or fruit, but as a community, a ya’ll, we can and should. I think this removes a barrier to really taking passages like these seriously. It is unlikely, probably impossible for most of us, to imagine ourselves exemplars of each and all of these. But we likely can imagine, or at least hope, to be a part of such a community.
On a different matter, the ya’ll is the matrix within which the I or me come into being and is conscious of itself. I know who I am, my gifts, and may place in the word through the community that raises us. In a world socializing us into a “Me, Myself, and I” world, which denies the necessity or importance of the ya’ll, the Christian ya’ll has to be intentional in battling for the identity and outook of the congregation.
Ya’ll is the “language of Canaan,” the lexicon of the divine, the apple of God’s eye. God intends to deal with us as a community and members thereof. If we fail to lay hold of this reality and continue to live as if the Christian “thing” is “me and Jesus in my heart,” we won’t get far in growing our faith.
Jesus Christ is God’s YA’LL. In him, we too are God’s ya’ll. Let’s read the Bible and live like it!