Saturday, September 27, 2008

From the Heart: Our Speech Revisited

Originally posted 4/2005 as a contribution to a group blog/discussion forum no longer available to the public

Oh the Irony

Just minutes after posting on the use of what some might call colorful language, at one of the discussion threads here, I logged on to voice chat. By mistake, I clicked on a room name that looks very similar to the one I intended to enter. I didn’t realize it wasn’t the correct room until I saw who was moderating.

The topic? Well, how do you say this without sounding simply awful? The topic was, justifying the use of cussing and swearing (yes, including the F word, and any and all others) as long as it’s "used in the proper context."

Sound crazy? Yes it did to me too, especially considering some of the people at the mic and typing in the text seem to be people who are well studied in the Scripture. Many others in the room were quoting Scripture left and right, on how our speech ought to be above that which the world partakes of.

So what was being argued as to the “proper context” to be cussing and using profane speech? Well, one man argued that in the context of his own bedroom with his wife, it would be perfectly okay to “talk dirty” (his words) and use these kinds of words. Another man argued in certain contexts of anger or frustration its perfectly okay to use certain words.

I have to say, many people watching and listening to this exchange, were just floored. Over and over again the verses posted to refute this were ignored, and “how dare you infringe on my liberty” was the rallying cry of those justifying using vulgar speech.

I don’t know if this is a new attitude toward our speech, or if I’ve just begun to notice it more. I do know, I seem to run into this more and more, all the time. In my research into the emergent church, I’ve found countless blogs and websites of laymen and pastors alike that have this kind of language on them. While this is not to say that everyone involved in the emerging church movement speaks this way, it is to say that this is when/where I first began to notice the prevelant use of this kind of language among professing Christians.

I have admitted that when I was unsaved, I had a horrid problem with this kind of language. I didn’t know then that it was a problem, everyone I knew spoke the same way – it was normal to me. It was only after I was converted to Christ that this became a sticking point for me.

Let me be clear: I do not write about this, or take issue with this, because of a personal conviction – although it is because of that personal conviction that I was led to seek the wisdom of Scripture on this very topic. It isn’t what I think about this, or you, or the next person. This isn’t a subject open to private interpretation. The bottom line is what the Scripture teaches on it.
Over the last few months, since I first wrote on this I’ve read emails, private messages, and forum posts from others that are also becoming more and more concerned with the acceptance of this kind of language. Not only online, but in articles, books, and even from the pulpit. They (rightfully so) are repulsed that this has suddenly become an acceptable form of communication in our churches, from our pastors, and in general Christian conversation.

This seems to be all a part of modern Christianity. Freedom & liberty to say, think, do, and engage in whatever seems okay at the time. What has happened in our local churches that has opened this door? Why has our standard of holy living been lowered so low, that we don’t sound any different than the average man on the street?

It’s been pointed out by many, in the last few months, that we’re seeing a huge compromise in Christendom, on many fronts. Some are calling it a relaxation of strong conviction, others mention that it’s a general irreverence for what was once held in high regard, for the sake of tolerance and acceptance. Ecumenicism, postmodernism, liberalism, mysticism, humanism and many other touchy-feely warm fuzzies are being welcomed in the front door of the church. Would it be safe to assume using profane speech, is just another part of this? How much longer before our brothers and sisters in the faith are also condoning couples living together without the benefit of marriage, or doing drugs, getting drunk, or cheating on their taxes, or spouse, or possessing pornography? How much longer before we hear “well in the proper context, my Christian liberty affords me the position of enjoying these things”?

I cannot help but think of one verse that asks this question:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

And the clear, unmistakable answer:

God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Galatians 6:1-14, emphasis mine)

Have we really begun to take Scripture so lightly, that suddenly it’s now okay to go right back to those things that we once did... said... or thought?

Another passage that comes to mind this morning is this one:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) (Eph. 2:1-5)

Look at verse 2 that I have emphasized: “in time past ye walked according to the course of this world”

What does it mean to have once walked according to the course of the world? I believe the context of this verse spells it out pretty clear when we keep reading in verse 3: “the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind”

If that’s still not clear enough, let’s look at a few more verses:

• Ephesians 4: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

• 1Peter 4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries

• Titus 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

It's absolutely impossible to read through the New Testament and miss the recurring theme of "this is who we once were, and this is who we now are".

Have we really strayed so far from holy living, that it’s now okay for Christians to go right back to the former ways, and use the grace of God as our security blanket? To abuse our liberty to say, and do, whatever we feel like saying and doing, no matter who it offends? Someone once said “Christian liberty is not the freedom to do whatever we wish, it’s the power to live to please God.”

Does profane speech, please God? Let’s see:

• 2Ti 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (have we seen an increase, the more it's tolerated?)

• 1Co 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (are we seeing what was once good, now corrupt?)

I believe the answer is quite clear that cussing and using vulgar speech does NOT please God in any way. It’s the way of the world, it’s the language of the former man, the spiritually dead man. It’s the communication of the world, which we are told again and again, to have no part of. And yet we seem to have bought into the idea that we must be “culturally relevant” and “progressive” and “connect” with the culture around us. We’ve adopted this speech, and think everything’s fine, because “for the cause of the gospel”?

Modern Christianity may teach us this method is just fine, but Scripture has a higher standard. The real question I think, in all this, would be this: does the following attitude reflect the modern attitude?

• 1Thes. 2: 1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

If it is not our first concern that our speech pleases God rather than men, we’ve got the wrong attitude about it.

I pray this encourages, convicts, and brings fruit. If you have read this and wish to defend the use of cuss words, as a believer, please, reconsider what the Scriptures teach us on these things. The only “proper context” for using such language, is from the lips of a man at enmity with God, walking according to the lusts of the flesh, according to the ways of this world, defending his pride. It has no place coming from the mouth of a man or woman, professing to love Christ.

There has never been a “proper context” for using the profane language of the world, for the believer.