Friday, December 02, 2011

Words Mean Things: Excruciating

"Neither can embellishments of language be found without arrangement and expression of thoughts, nor can thoughts be made to shine without the light of language. " - Cicero

Over time the meaning of words are often forgotten or changed. This is sometimes unintentional and sometimes purposeful. Regardless of the cause, the meaning of words are important. Language can teach a lot about a people, from culture to history, values and spiritual truths. It is my hope to write one of these from time to time; to focus on a word whose meaning has either been forgotten or changed and to consider its true meaning.

The word "excruciating" does not carry with it the fondest of images. And for good reason. We know the word to describe something that is extremely painful, carrying with it the idea of unbearable suffering. What good could come out of such a thing?

What we have forgotten is that the word -like so many of our words- comes from Latin. The word is excrusiatus, which is derived from a different Latin word -excruciare. It means "out of that which causes pain or anguish", or more literally "out of the cross". The cross, of course, being the ancient Roman means of executing the worst of criminals. This punishment was reserved for mainly non-Roman citizens as the Romans generally believed it too horrible a death to put a fellow Roman through. Cicero once wrote the following about the punishment of crucifixion:

"To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to slay him [by execution] is almost an act of murder, to crucify him is....what? There is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed."
It would seem that even the inventors of this punishment shuddered at its use. Even today there are scholars who would say it is still the worst means of execution ever devised. It is no accident then that Jesus would chose to die in this manner. Does the weight of our sins deserve anything less than the worst mankind has ever dreamed up? Christ endured the excruciating death of the cross on our behalf; but he suffered something further as well. He suffered God the Father turning his back on him which hurt him more than the physical agony of his punishment. All for the sake of his incomprehensible love for sinners. It is truly mind blowing.

To bind him is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to slay him is murder, to crucify the Lord of the Universe is....what? It is the punishment we deserved. It is our Lord taking our sin upon himself and bearing the wrath of God. It is salvation to those who believe. Stop and dwell on this for a while. Words mean things, and I'm thankful that they do.

"For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:7-8 © 2010. layout by Chaotic Soul :: Converted by Randomness