“I like your new glasses, ” I said in Spanish to one of our friends from Mexico the other day. My grasp of the language is rusty enough that I always have to think carefully as I speak, and one word I was sure to get right was “your.” In Spanish there is a formal (“su”) and informal (“tu”) version of the word, and with our friend I was sure to say “su.” Though I am very familiar with her, having known her since I was a toddler, we are not quite close enough that it would be appropriate for me to say “tu, ” and thus I use formal address when I speak to her.
It was stunning, then, when I came across a Spanish translation of the Our Father and saw that the word “thy” is translated as “tu.” Informal.
In English we don’t have formal and informal words, but there is an old tradition of addressing people in high places differently: in fact, when subjects addressed royalty, they didn’t typically say “thy” or “your” at all. If someone were to ask a queen if she wanted tea, they wouldn’t say, “Would you like your tea now?” but rather, “Would Her Majesty like her tea now?” Not speaking directly to her would be a sign of deference to her high position.
And so it is a shock that not only are we allowed to address the King of all, the Creator of every single thing that exists, directly, but that we are encouraged to refer to him in a casual way. I wouldn’t speak to my Spanish-speaking neighbor down the street using “tu.” He’s not a close friend. And yet this is how I am told to speak to the One to whom I owe my entire existence.
I believe that it is with this word, this informal “thy, ” that the shocking message of John 15:15 hits home. For Jesus turned our entire understanding of our relationship to God on its head when he told us, “I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends.”
What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “Thy”?
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