Read Romans 3:23-25
23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; (NRSV)
Texts like this get close to the heart of what the Christian faith is all about. But texts like this also use words that are easily misunderstood and sometimes even obscure. So when we try to convey Christian truth via words, we need to be aware that what we are saying and what others are hearing might be two different things.
Our text speaks of sin: the world at large will misunderstand what is meant by that. What does it mean to be justified? And how can grace best be understood? How do we explain redemption? And as for sacrificial atonement, that is not going to make much sense. Even faith can be twisted in meaning as can righteousness.
It is the task not only of preachers and teachers, but everyday disciples, to convey profound truth in words that are intelligible to contemporary people and yet faithful to our biblical tradition. It is far from easy, which is why so many still lapse into ‘Christian bubble speak’ and are sadly and badly misunderstood. We mouth the biblical phrases and somehow hope that they will make sense.
But our God wants us to use wisdom and imagination in expressing our faith, not lazy clichés. After all, it is easy to make simple things complex, but so much more challenging to make complex things simple.