So I was on Facebook the other day and saw something that really upset me. Granted, this is probably a daily occurrence for many, but I was really frustrated and wanted to lash out at the person. What kind of archaic nonsense was this dude posting? And why was I upset at him for holding and espousing such a traditional view? So, I did what any reasonable person should do instead of would do; I let it go…and then three days later wrote a blog post about it that may or may not be read by said friend (I still love you Chris…pinkie promise).So, what was this egregious offense that my brother committed? He posted an article about why a dude he greatly respects in the Church doesn’t cuss. It’s okay. Judge me. Really, it’s fine. I get it. We Christians may be internal messes, but swearing is just not something that has been a part of our experiences. The pastor is coming around? You remind your kid to be on his best behavior and even your unsaved husband/wife steers clear of bad language. It’s just a tenet of our shared faith. But then again for a while so was owning slaves, not playing dominoes, drinking wine, not drinking wine, purchase of women for wives, paying men to marry your daughter, cutting off enemy foreskins, calling down bears to eat children…you know, all that great biblical stuff.
You can see where I’m going here. There are all sorts of things in the Bible that we as (post)modern Christians shun. For instance, those polyester blend grippies you are wearing…sin. That eye shadow and your favorite pair of hoop earrings…sin. In other words, there are some things that we have reasoned out of the Bible for this or that reason, and there are other things that are non-negotiable. It really is quite interesting and it is one of the things that makes the Church so curious…and I mean that in the true sense of curiosity, not some backhanded sleight.
So, before I get back to language, let me make a blanket statement that I stand by probably 99.9% of the time (you have to leave yourself an out, right?). I will never fault someone for holding a traditional Christian view.* (Wait…why as there an asterisk?)
* I will never fault someone for having a traditional view as long as they have searched the Scripture, searched their heart, actually made this belief their own and not an inherited view of someone else. I will respect you for having the wherewithal to actually search these things out and make them your own and not blindly holding to grandma’s Presbyterian beliefs because she drug you out of bed every Sunday that one summer you stayed with her. I promise that is true nearly 100% of the time.
So, now back to our previously scheduled post about bad language. There were two reasons that this particular article just struck me wrong, well three. Let’s actually start with the third reason: I have a bit of a foul mouth. I picked that up at seminary of all places. I guard it and hide it pretty well, but at times…phew. Like last Friday. Yikes. Thanks to all of you who helped me through that ordeal. So, that was probably an initial cause for my reaction. But now let’s get into the meat of this issue.
Words on their own hold no power or meaning.Simple enough right. Try speaking English in a small village in Kazakhstan. You will find this principle to be true. The truth is that the words we speak only have the power that we give them. I think the classic example for us Americans is seen in, of all places, an Austin Powers film title. The word “shag” is so offensive to our British cousins that they couldn’t release the film with the full title. No…really. That happened. To Brits, the word shag was that offensive. But you could hear that word in just about any church in America without the slightest glimpse of embarrassment. Or how about the time my buddy went to Amsterdam on a mission trip? He was walking down the road with missionaries and was told to look out there was #%$@ in the road. That is simply what they called poop. That is what was in the road, and that is what that word referred to, period.
|Look at those smouldering eyes. He's after your cows.|
The words we use are not as important as the way we use them. But being so rule-based as we Christians are we decided to relegate this certain set of words as off limits. That was the solution. It’s like corralling all the bulls you own, but then letting all of your cows wander throughout the state of Wyoming with no fences. Sure…your bulls won’t knock them up, but I can guarantee you there are other bulls that will. Before I belabor this point too much, let’s transition.
I could care much less about your tongue than your heart.
There I said it. You replacing all of your cuss words with our pre-approved church conversion chart does not impress me. Your darns and craps and shoots just don’t cut it in my book when it comes to purity. Really…they don’t. All you have done is (look at point 1 again to clarify this) replace our corralled words and given the same intent to our approved words. That is really all you have done. I know your intent was good bro. I really do…and I honor you for trying, but when you are thirsty and you pour moldy water out of a cup and refill it from a mud puddle you really have not obtained the change you desire.
And truth be told, this point extends further out than exchanging cuss words. More importantly it takes on the way we talk to and about each other. The other day my friend Donovan posted a youtube video of a pastor railing on his congregation. I mean, he was getting after it saying, “You are one of the sorriest members of this congregation” to some poor dude and saying there was no way he would perform his wedding.
And here is where I disconnected from the original article. That dude was so hung up on a few choice words that he missed the heart of what was behind it all. He missed the mark on what sanctification is about. He missed how the Kingdom of God breaks in and radically transforms some people. He missed how certain people take years to work certain kinks out of their lives. And he reasserted that good Christians simply don’t do this…without really even considering why language is a big deal.
And that my friends is the main thing…we need to think about these things. Gay marriage? Think about it. Tax evasion? Think about it? Euthanasia? Think about it. Yelling at your kids? Think about it. Hiding your secret addiction? Think about it. We need to be a people who have worked out our faith with fear and trembling. The world sees through fictitious Christianity that spouts off learned doctrines that have been passed on from great men and women, but have not actually taken root inside of us. Why is cleanliness next to Godliness? Why do people say, “God helps people who help themselves,” is in the Bible? Why do we not know enough to understand where these things come from? Next time you pick up on any of that craziness, be like Dikembe Mutumbo and wave that finger at them...John would be proud.
So, in terms of this dude and his not swearing…good on him. But tell me why you have selected this set of words, and why you think it is really a holiness issue other than, “Well, you know…it’s always been that way.” Well until the Civil War so was slavery. Until the 1960s so was radical racial and socio-economic segregation. And if there is anything we as Christians need it is a faith that involves our heart, soul, mind and strength, and is not simply a reflection of our forefathers and mothers who did all of the hard work so we could fumble at the finish line.