Disclaimer: I want to preface this post with two points: 1) I really don’t use the words I’m citing here. Even though I’m in the military and cussing is second nature to most of us, I don’t really cuss much at all. Occasionally I have used such language in quotes or to add humor, but my point is that I am not writing this to defend my use of any language. 2) I’m writing this to get you thinking, and to stop people from holding conservatism on the same level as Christianity; the two are not one.
Additionally: I’ve decided to censor any actual “cuss words” in this article. This is because I don’t want anyone to lose focus of the message due to their focus on specific words. My goal is not to offend for no reason, but to induce critical thinking, as we should all desire to do for ourselves. Here we go…
We need to stop holding certain values as “Christian” values that simply aren’t. I’m a Jesus Follower for sure, but I’m not even sure I want to be associated with the word “Christian” anymore. We need to understand the difference between Christian and culture — especially the American, conservative culture. We simply need to understand the difference between Christian and conservative. Maybe we should all just adopt the term “Jesus Follower” and try to live like Jesus, not merely conservatively.
Thesis: My premise here is that I think if Jesus came today, instead of 2,000 years ago, He would’ve had a bone to pick with religious leaders, as he did when He came. Therefore, I think He would cuss to show religious people how often they’re “majoring on the minors.” I don’t think cussing is the only example, but it’s a prominent one in today’s society.
Cussing, or using “foul language,” is cultural. Take the words we know today, such as the F word, and say it 500 years ago. What happens? Nothing. Nobody is offended, because it’s just a word. There’s nothing wrong with it in itself.
Cussing could be compared to the Jewish man-made hand-washing tradition. I think this is the best comparison to explain my point:
Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”Mark 7:1-13
The Pharisees and scribes were holding their manmade traditions on the same level as God’s law.
We see the same story in Matthew.
Manmade traditions being held to Biblical standards was something Jesus had a major problem with. And for good reason. He didn’t come primarily to criticize the sinners; He came criticize the religious.
That’s why I think cussing today is equatable with hand washing in the New Testament, 2,000 years ago.
It’s about your speech, not specific words.
I know, I know… there is supposedly a verse about cussing…
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”Ephesians 4:29
“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.”Colossians 3:8
“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”James 3:10
I understand we are under the Spirit, not the Law now, as New Testament Christians. And I also understand that we’re to be held accountable for our words, and our words can defile us.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,”Matthew 12:36
“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”Matthew 15:11
Finally, there is even a verse that tells us not to swear, though this has nothing to do with “cultural cuss words”…
“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”James 5:12
Words are Important
I get it. What we say matters. Our words are important. We shouldn’t let ill speak come out of our mouths. We should use our words to build others up, not tear them down. We should be intentional with our words, because we will be held accountable for them.
But if someone says, “Jesus is F****** awesome,” I would wholeheartedly agree. And I would have no problem with that statement. It’s a cultural word that may have had specific meanings in the beginning, but now is just a word used for emphasis.
The Bible wants us to avoid tearing others down. We shouldn’t use our words to tear others down, but to build them up.
So why is all of this important? Why did I even write this? Because this is actually a great evangelism tool.
If you approach someone who doesn’t live a very “conservative” life, and he hears you talking about Jesus, while not judging the words he’s using, and hearing you occasionally use some of the same words, he will let his guard down. In fact, being overly conservative could be a divider between the two people.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God”Ephesians 5:1-5
This article isn’t a ticket to use crude language. Not at all. It’s more of a call to be intentional with our words. To mean what we say, and say what we mean. And to not focus on the wrong things.
For the record, there is absolutely no difference between saying “dammit” and “dang it.” Between saying “what the heck” and “what the hell?” Between saying “crap” and saying “s***.”
Now, some terms that we’ve worked into our speech, such as “holy s***,” do fall into the unnecessary category. The theological implications of that phrase render it crude, distasteful, and we shouldn’t say it.
The problem is when we embrace conservatism and render all words that are deemed culturally unacceptable as “Biblically wrong.” That’s simply not true.
“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
“The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.Proverbs 8:13
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”Proverbs 18:21
Don’t use it around people who will stumble because of it. Don’t do it to prove a point, but some people who think Christianity is about being religious (hint: it’s not) will be intrigued to hear certain words.
I don’t really use this language often.
We teach our kids not to cuss, because it’s culturally unacceptable, but not because it’s supposedly biblically unacceptable.
Telling someone they’re stupid or otherwise tearing someone down is biblically wrong. Telling someone they’re f****** awesome does not go against the Bible, regardless of what religious, conservatives tell you.
Our goal should be to lift people up, not tear the down. Our words are important. Every single one of them has meaning. Definitions change. Many words are cultural. Some are temporary.
The main point behind all of this is to use your words for good and not evil, but don’t let our cultural standards work their way into our biblical standards.[/rant_over]