So, this is in response to a conversation last night regarding whether foul language by Christians is acceptable before God. To be honest, I know most people go straight to the 2nd commandment, but to me, that just rules out the GD of the curse world. Doesn’t do anything for what I would call the George Carlin list of seven dirty words you can’t use on TV. So, why shouldn’t we use them? I found a surprising number of verses related to the subject.
“”You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
Exodus 20:7 ESV. I know, I already mentioned this one. Just thought I’d spell it out. Like I said, using the GD-anything is not acceptable. This is about much more than GD…but it’s certainly not about less than that.
“Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?”
Ecclesiastes 5:6 ESV. Where your mind goes, your whole body will follow. That is why it is so important to me to change what’s in my mind. Your mouth is an outward extension of your mind. If you’re trying to do good works over here, the turn the other way and use language that you know is not for building up or showing grace, language that tells the person you’re talking to it’s ok to do your own thing, God will not be happy with that. My pastor did a sermon series a while back on the enemy. He made the point that not everything which leads us in the wrong direction is clear. The enemy doesn’t want it clear. It’s much easier for him to take you 5 degrees off target than 180 degrees. Funny thing is, that 5 degrees gives him a foothold. Then it’s ten, twenty thirty, forty degrees. Next thing you know, you’re turned around trying to figure how you got so far off track. Why give him the first five?
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
Romans 14:13-23 ESV. This is not so straightforward. At the time Paul wrote this letter, many foods were considered “unclean” or “dirty.” From his writings it’s clear that there was offensive language as well, but the big issue of his time was unclean, unacceptable food. We do not have any food that is unacceptable to us, but in our society, we do have words considered “dirty.” This passage applies to us today just as much as to the Romans to whom Paul was writing – I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. We do care about what is offensive to those around us. If we claim to be Christians, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we are offending our neighbor by what we say, we are not walking in love. Language is offensive for many around us. We are fully aware of this. Those who find it offensive are not wrong. It IS unclean for anyone who THINKS it is unclean. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. If you think it is fine, but those around you find it wrong, then you are pushing a line you don’t need to push. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, [words] destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats[says]. Again, we are to build up, not bring down. Our foul language does not make mutual peace or up building. If we make ourselves ( or those around us) stumble by what we say, we should not be saying it. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. This is interesting. The wine thing. By itself, it is not wrong. But if we risk causing an alcoholic to relapse, we should avoid it. And anything that causes your brother to stumble. What is anything? I don’t know for sure, but it’s kind of like…anything. Language included.
“However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
1 Corinthians 8:7-13 ESV. This is like the previous passage. Specifically, it refers to food, but for us in 2016 America, the closest comparison is the language we use. Again, why use questionable language? If we call ourselves submitted to Christ, why are we rebelling against simple, basic standards of society? If you have the spirit within you…the Holy Spirit does not curse. Why do you? Why do I?
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8. Do the words we use live up to this standard?
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
1 John 3:16 ESV. We are called to lay down our lives for our brothers. Do we even begin to understand the full meaning of what this means? Most of us (including myself) really don’t. One thing I do know – if we can’t even give up foul language for the sake of our brothers, for the good of the kingdom, then what part of our lives are we willing to lay down.
Very simply, if Jesus Christ is lord of your life, there is no need to use offensive language. Every time we do, we do so very simply because we want to claim control if our lives, and do things our way.
If Jesus is simply in charge of your after-life affairs, then feel free to go on cursing and make your case on judgement day. What do I mean by after-life affairs? If all you need Jesus for is to punch your ticket to heaven, but you’re going to live in this world as you see fit, then Jesus is your personal secretary of after-life affairs. You may be right about mere words we use, you may be wrong. If Jesus Christ is Lord of your life, if he is in charge, then you don’t need this message. Most of us do. I claim progress, not perfection, on the language I use. And I thank God for work if His spirit working within me to give me the power to change!!