The Word and the Flesh

Hearing from Oliver Ferguson is a Christmas treat. Enjoy!-Renée

I am really into rap music. I got into it growing up in Jamaica in the 1980s-the 90s when there wasn’t much of it being played on the radio there. When I was in high school, there was one FM station that played hip-hop music on a Saturday afternoon around 1 or 2 pm for maybe 30-40 minutes. To date myself, even more, I would often have my cassette tape on the ready-to-hit record to make sure I stayed up on what was current.

Since its inception in the late 1970s in New York City, hip-hop has been the vehicle for transmitting to the broader culture new styles, slangs, dance moves, and overall, what was happening “in the streets.” The pulsating bass line and syncopated drum patterns can be infectious, and it is hard not to want to at least bop your head to it.  

But that’s not the main reason I like hip-hop music. The main reason is words. Hip-Hop as a genre stands out regarding the number of words used per verse. The word density allows rappers to tell vivid stories, packing in multiple topics, and using similes, metaphors, double entendre, and puns. I have always been fascinated by those with a facility with words, poets, fiction writers, playwrights, and hip-hop rappers. Those skilled with the pen (well, keyboard these days) have made us laugh, cry, seethe in rage, be filled with joy or wonder, educated and ‘Miseducated’ us.

I am a laid-back person that tries hard to avoid conflict (to a fault, really) or imposing myself on situations, so my personality does not seem like one that would gravitate usually associated with hip-hop music and culture. But that’s a big part of the appeal for me; the rappers express my aggression. I could be upset and cuss someone out vicariously. So, my music choices would provide that outlet for me. Not the healthiest way to go about it, I know.

Proverbs remind me of hip hop songs, with their pithy aphorisms and chapters that bounce from topic to topic; with each verse, it packs in a lot of wisdom and imagery with the skillful use of words. It has a lot to say about the very topic of… words:

The godless destroy their neighbors by their words,
but the righteous are saved by their knowledge. 
(Proverbs 11:9)

A sensitive answer turns back wrath,
but an offensive word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)

Wholesome speech is a tree of life,
but dishonest talk breaks the spirit. 
(Proverbs 15:4)

The stomach is satisfied
by the fruit of the mouth;
one’s lips can earn a satisfying income.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue;
those who love it will eat its fruit. 
(Proverbs 18:20-21)

As we go through the fourth week of Advent, we reflect on peace. In the Proverbs, we are encouraged not just to await the Prince of Peace, but we are invited to usher in that peace. With our words. With our words, we can bring peace and wisdom and reduce the strife around us. The beautiful opening poem in the Gospel of John reminds us that “the Word became flesh and made his home among us” (John 1:14). But unlike me and my hip-hop escapism, we are not just to wait for peace when Jesus arrives, but to be his agents of peace. To be his embodiment in that way, ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20). We can all learn a little from rappers to be more skilled in our wordplay… to turn back wrath, save with knowledge, and use the power of life. In the meantime, I am still working on healthier ways to express my pent-up aggression while I bop my head to the beat. 

3 Comments On “The Word and the Flesh”

  1. Oliver, thank you for the challenges and the reminders. Be blessed. We miss you.


  2. Kathy Kearney-Grobler

    Thank you Oliver- I love the comparison of hip hop to the Proverbs. Spot on. Now when I read Proverbs I will bop my head a bit and think of you.


  3. Glad this was a blessing to you all… Miss you too


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