Friday, September 26, 2008

From the Heart: Excuse my French?

(originally posted 1/2005)

An odd thing I've noticed more and more over the last few months is a trend (?) among Christians to use cuss/swear/vulgar words in their type-written literature.

Think on that for just a minute. You're at your keyboard typing away, emptying your head/heart/coffee cup, and intentionally and deliberately type out a word that is profane - the kind of word if uttered in school, or at church, or in front of your grandmother, you would be in more trouble for, than you ever dreamed of in your spookiest nightmares.

But this is 2005... its apparently okay for Christians to cuss now. Go ahead, you know you want to. It's all a part of "being authentic" in the new Christianity.

While reading a (no longer available) discussion thread on this same subject it was mentioned that there was once a time in our western culture that it was common for men to not even swear in mixed company. While once we lived in a time where if men did cuss in front of women they would immediately apologize, now we live in a time where Christians cuss, and don’t even bother to apologize.

I suppose part of the reason I have such an issue with this, is for the personal reasons.

When I was first converted to Christ, it was after 29 years of living in the world, and being a spiffy example of being very worldly. Some things He removed instantly, and others He did not. One of the things He did not take away - was my vulgar speech when I got angry. It bothered me, but it didn't bother me as much as it did later. I had not yet read what Scripture had to say about our tongue, and our speech.

One day, I was coming out of the grocery store and as I was pushing my grocery basket to my car, I noticed a lady with a few kids unloading her groceries into her car. What caused me to notice her was her language. Her kids were doing what kids do, not listening when she said "get in and put your seatbelts on". One was standing up in the front seat, and the other two were chasing each other around the car. Typical kid-stuff - grocery store parking lots are fun, when you're a kid.

Anyway... she snapped and began to unleash on those cute little kids the most vile stream of expletives, I have ever heard. Now let me just say here - it's not as if I was a stranger to this kind of language. For many years I was a metal-head. I mean, black leather clad head-banger type. All my friends were metal heads and all their friends were metal heads. We walked the walk, talked the talk, and lived what we were. It’s what sinners do.

But everything was different now... all the leather was gone, all the abandon was gone, and I was a new creation in Christ, and most desirous to live to please Him, and grow in grace.

So when I heard this woman unload this verbal-bomb on her children, I literally stopped mid-parking lot, and I'm sure my jaw dropped open like a little kid hearing the F word for the first time. I will never forget the impact those words, had on those kids. They were emotionally crushed. Their faces fell, their body language changed, they didn't even look her in the eye. They immediately calmed down, and almost as if in slow motion, got into their seats and put their seatbelts on. All the while I'm standing behind her car (she never even noticed me), with tears welling up in my eyes. The urge to go hug those cute little kids, was almost overwhelming. And she didn't stop cussing at them, AFTER they were in the car - that was when she took her opportunity to remind them how stupid they were, what brats they were, and so on and so forth, but said with just as many cusswords.

I wanted to say something to her... to them... but I didn't know what to say, or if saying anything at all was the right thing to do. I stood there like a statue, and started to cry. Eventually I got it together and walked away, toward my car, with a million thoughts racing through my heart. "They're going to speak just like her as they grow up"... "do they hear this all the time?"... "does their dad talk like this to them to?"... "I would have died if my mom ever talked to me like that"... and then the last thought, that overpowered them all was "this is what I sound like when I get mad".

That one - messed me up badly. What scum I was, daring for even one half of one iota of a second, to sit in judgement of that lady for doing the very same thing I did! So I went home crying, and told my husband about it. I said "is this what I sound like when I get mad and cuss?" he said no, not quite that bad, but sometimes very close. I was crushed as those kids in the parking lot. I had to go to my kids and tell them what I just witnessed, and apologized all over the place for EVER talking like that in front of them, or to them, and asked them to forgive me. After that I set out on a study to find out what the Bible says about our speech, and our conduct, and how we are to deal with both. If I was convicted by what I witnessed at the grocery store, and more convicted by what my husband said when I heard "not that bad, but close", I was thoroughly and absolutely UNDONE by what I read in Scripture about it.

The next many years was a constant and difficult battle to control my tongue, and it also grieved me deeply over the little battles lost. To this very day - I'm painfully and sharply mindful of it, and still, every once in a purple moon, I lose a tongue-control battle - BUT - compared to how it used to be, well, let's just say He's brought me a LONG way.

So I said all that to say this: YES I have a large issue with cussing, but not because I once had an "experience" that altered my view of it. The issue I have with it, is because the Bible is very clear about it, and condemns the practice of vulgar speech. Simply put, it's ugly and it's unedifying, and it's wrong.

I have even a larger issue with the idea that self-professed Christians cuss, and think absolutely nothing of it or even worse, defend it. Do they reflect back on their day and think "hmmm,,, guess maybe that wasn't a good thing to say, or type today"? I have no idea, but I sure hope so. I do know, sadly that they make no apologies for it publicly (the one's I've encountered lately).

Does all this sound snippy, and harsh, or petty and judgemental? Probably to those who cuss, it does. Maybe to those who like to make excuses for other people's behavior, it sounds too mean. Fair enough - forget everything you just read and read the following, instead:

• Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

• Col 4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

• Deut 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

• Ps 37:30 The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.

• Ps 71:15 My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof. 16 I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.

• Pr 10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.

• Pr 15:4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

• Pr 16:23 The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips. 24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

• Pr 22:17 Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge. 18 For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.

• Eph 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

I could easily list SO many more - James 3 for starters (if that doesn't hush people up, I don’t know what will). The bottom line is this: IT'S WRONG. It's wrong to speak this way, wrong to write this way, and wrong to ever attempt to justify either.

If you're a Christian that struggles with taming the tongue, welcome to the family - many of us do. But be THANKFUL it's a struggle, that He has convicted your heart of the ugliness and destructive nature of it. If you're a Christian that does not struggle with it, and makes no apologies for it... then... I offer this for you:

Col 3:1-17
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

If Christians who swear and use obscene language is part of being a "new kind of Christian" as I hear and read almost every day, NO THANK YOU. Give me the old paths, where I never have to say:

"Excuse my French"