define: affirmation, aim, angel, anoint, anthropomorphism.
Spirithome > Spiritual Word Meanings > Anoint and Affirmation
affirmation [ < Latin affirmāre, < ad- (toward, to) + firmāre (to strengthen)] To support, cheer on, side with, strengthen.
In its best sense, affirmation means supporting the value of something or someone. It is a 'Yes' in both attitude and deed. God affirmed us by making us, then by making us free, then by keeping us alive, then by coming as a human person (Jesus) to live among us, then by sending God's Spirit to guide us. Jesus calls His followers to affirm our selves, each other, and other people, in much the same way as He has affirmed us. (Thus, when we cut people down with biting words and backstabbing deeds, we are not following Jesus. So why are we so quick to do it?) Affirmation is a positive act that helps to to give confidence and a sense of being supported. It gives voice to goals and hopes, and strengthens resolve. Another way God affirms is by putting into us gifts to build up the faithful. Christians often affirm someone or something at hand by saying words like "Amen!" or "Hallelujah!". In its worst sense (far too common in some circles), affirmation is a moral sop in which being nice is more important than giving people real help, which involves (at some point) helping them face the hard truth about the situations they face or the consequences of what they've done. 'No' has great value when it is held within the context of Christ's larger 'Yes'.
We affirm the meaning found in the dictionary.
aim [ < Old French (a)esmer < Latin aestimare (to estimate)] a determined, deliberate, focused effort to get some specific thing done (such as a goal).
Without aim, you go nowhere special. You have somewhere you want to go (a goal, a dream, a vision), but you get there by aiming for it. It's much better than random action, but on spiritual matters it still cannot stand by itself. Think of an arrow; we try, but no matter how hard we pull back on the bow or how well we aim, our vision wobbles, the gravity of sin pulls downward, the target is often missed. Our efforts need to be part of something bigger, aimed not by us but by the Spirit who can figure the right trajectory, supply the right power, and aim at the right target.
You can also check the dictionary for 'aim'.
angel : messengers (Heb. mal'aki ) from beyond the material realm. They do God's errands -- mostly to tell us about something God is doing or is about to do. They can lead people to do (or not to do) things, but they do not interfere with peoples' own choices once those are made. They also have a protective role -- while Scripture is not very clear on how this works, the reports of the faithful over the years are clear about it. Oh, by the way.... they're not always nice.
The meaning of the term 'angel' in some countries and settings has a non-divine meaning, derived from their goodness and/or their rescue abilities. For instance, in urban England (and also in the subculture of Broadway in the US), an 'angel' is an investor whose money saves the show, or starts or saves a company. In Australia and the Philippines, sometimes an 'angel' is someone who comes to the rescue in troubled circumstances. In the US, someone who is seen by others to have an amazing
goodness in them is called an 'angel' (and if there's a strongly malicious intent, the person is called a 'devil'). It's also a term of endearment for lovers. It's also the term for a player for the Los Angeles Angels baseball team, in Anaheim CA. But each of these so-called 'earth-angels' is not the main meaning of 'angel'. It's good to remember what an angel is really like when we use the term in other ways.
More on angels.
to anoint [ < Old French enoindre < Latin inunguere < in- (on) + unguere (to smear, apply ointment) ] To apply oil onto someone.
When the ancients wanted to heal a wound, they poured or daubed oil onto it. Oil then became a symbol of God's healing powers, and anointment became a sign of trust that God heals. It is still a practice among some Christian churches to anoint the sick with oil, as found in James 5:14-15. From there, oil became a symbol of other powers of God. A chosen person would be anointed to mark their being given special authority by God, including authority to govern. The word 'Mashiach' or 'Messiah' refers to the ultimate One who was chosen to make the ultimate rescue of God's people; the Greek word for this is 'Christ'. Christians hold that this Anointed One was Jesus of Nazareth. At baptism God 'anoints' each Christian with the Holy Spirit; we then belong to God. The Spirit then teaches us what is needed.
There is also a specialized use of the term 'anointing' by Pentecostalist and Charismatic believers. When someone is said to be 'anointed', it means that the Spirit 'pours' onto them like oil -- that is, the person has been given special power/authority by the Holy Spirit to work with the Spirit in accomplishing the task at hand. The 'anointing' shows itself when the beneficial task is done well and is extraordinarily effective. The 'anointed' person(s) or their activity is then said to be operating 'in the Spirit' and 'outside of themselves'. (In some less-careful circles, 'anointed' has been dumbed down to mean 'good', even if there's no other reason to think that the Spirit might be involved rather than skill or knack.)
A reader writes:
> A friend and I with the permission from
authority have started to
>pray over our church school and anoint the place with oil as we go.
>Another friend as asked me what my scriptual basis for this is. I know
>people were anointed with oil as there were commissed for service. I
>know that oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Can you tell me more??
Oil is indeed a symbol of the Spirit, and is used as a sign of healing. The origin may have been in the ancient use of spiced oils in treating sores and wounds (it keeps the wound clean and moist, and when spiced it can have a mild antiinfective effect). The connection with healing is still strong, and is found in James 5:14 and Luke 10:34. Later (but still before the Bible was written), it came to be used to mark inner healing and purification, and thus was used at death, and when consecrating a church member for a holy purpose (for example, Exodus 25:6, 1 Samuel 10:1). These uses were true of Asian and North African cultures as well as Middle Eastern ones. Since the spirit of the god(s) (whether seen as a being or a force) was seen as the agent making this healing and purification possible, the oil came to symbolize that spirit.
From there, the symbolism developed further to where objects (such as chalices, altars, and even buildings) were anointed to symbolize the object's being dedicated to God's use. This is still a part of the Orthodox and some Catholic traditions, and Anglicans have been known to do it too. Objects are anointed with consecrated water if oils would stain the object.
You can also check the dictionary.
anthropomorphism : using human (Greek anthro-) forms (Greek -morph) or characteristics to describe spiritual beings such as God, angels, or demons.
Neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit have actual eyes, ears, hands, fingers, mouth, voice, or face, yet when such familiar terms are used, we can more easily grasp something important about God. Through these 'anthropomorphisms' we can picture what God is doing, and thus get some hint of what God is like. God has honored these material-world body parts (and the words and ideas related to them) through the material-being Jesus, and by using them to communicate and to relate with us. The danger in using anthropomorphisms comes when we think of God like we do ourselves, when in fact God is quite different, much 'bigger'. Technically, all words and images we use about God are in some sense 'anthropomorphisms', since they all come from our experiences in a world of shapes and bodies. But some words and phrases are much better than others at catching who God is and what God is about. Some words are 'analogs', similar in kind to something God is or does. Some words prompt our minds to reach for something beyond ourselves. The Spirit gives special strength to those words and phrases, in the Bible, in prophecy, in life, and even sometimes in theological shop-talk.
'Anthropomorphism' is one of those words that sends the wise reader rushing to the dictionary.
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|ver.: 12 August 2010|
Affirmation! Copyright © 1997-2010 By Robert Longman.