Scripture Says, ‘Sisters, I’m Talking to All Y’all’

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After three decades of Bible reading, I discovered something unexpected about the New Testament’s intended audience.

As much as I try to be a good listener, it’s still amazing how much I don’t hear on any given day. Of the tens of thousands of words that float by my ears from speakers (both human and electronic), relatively few seem to cross the auditory abyss and register in my brain. My six-year-old was stunned to discover recently that I didn’t know what had happened to our hero in the storybook chapter we were reading—even though I was the one who had just read it aloud. Apparently, I’m even capable of tuning my own voice out.

Our ability to tune out noise is part of the way God has made us. Scientists call this auditory selective attention, describing how our brains are wired to filter out a multitude of sounds so that we’re able to acutely focus on others. The question is: What does it take to get us to “tune in” again? High on the list of ways to get people’s attention is to speak to them directly. “Using a person’s name when you address them is an excellent way to get [someone’s] attention,” says marriage and family therapist Bianca Rodriguez. “It displays both familiarity and directness.”

The Bible includes a whole lot of “you” verses, and they pack more punch than we might expect. One of my first lessons in New Testament Greek was to discover that most of my deeply loved verses were not addressed to me personally. What I was used to reading as “you” in my English Bible was, in fact, a plural form of you in the Greek—something closer to the South’s all y’all in translation.

Realizing that Scripture was not just a book for my personal devotion but one addressed to a community—all y’all—was …

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