Christians and Cussing!
Writer Author Pastor John McWilliams
- Fiction No
I could be wrong, and I’ve done nothing to scientifically research what I’m about to say. Yet, I’m very sure that more Christians in general and also many pastors I encounter these days, seem to be alright with openly using swear words in their conversations with folks when they feel like it. Moreover, it seems those same Christians also assume that others find no offense in their use of such language.
Perhaps I missed the memo where God proclaimed that Christians are now free to use swear words whenever we feel it’s appropriate. Yet the last time I checked Scripture, swearing and using foul language, were still listed in God’s Word as something which is wrong and something we Christians should avoid doing.
Now lest one feels I’m being too legalistic here or judgmental, let me tell you something about myself. I used to swear and use foul language as much or more than most people. I was a habitual cusser and I’d used the worst words around. In fact, cleaning up my language was something I resisted doing for quite some even after time after becoming Christian.
However when I read Scripture on this subject, I was both convinced and convicted that swearing is wrong and that I should allow The Holy Spirit to give me the power to stop doing it.
Two main Scriptures come to bear on this subject and I’ve printed them below.
"But now put them away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth." Colossians 3:8.
"Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted." Ephesians 4:29-30 The Message
"Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Ephesians 4:29-30 R. S. V.
It really is clear in God’s Word that swearing, cussing and foul language are wrong and wrong for some very specific reasons. When I looked up the Greek word translated "foul language" it literally means evil speech which includes the area of obscene speech.
All swear words, in any language, carry a negative connotation. They, by their very nature, designed to degrade and put people down. I feel one would be hard pressed to find anyone who would say they enjoy being the focus of foul language. I’ve never met anyone who says they feel better about themselves when people make them the focus of foul language.
The Scriptures are clear. They say that foul language is just that "foul" or "evil" or "obscene. Such words are designed to make people feel bad and are aimed at tearing them down. Now of course many of us have become desensitized to foul language since we hear so much of it today on television and in the movies. It all started with Clark Gable and "Gone With The Wind" and it’s gone down hill ever since. What was unacceptable language only a few years ago on both television and in the movies, is now used all the time. How much farther it will go is something we will all have to watch. Yet Scripture remains constant on this issue. Foul language is meant to hurt, harm and degrade those at whom it is directed. Moreover, what might be called "secondary effects" of swearing, (sort of like second hand smoke) effects others around who hear it, including children. In a very real sense, foul language is one of the things I like to call "lead paint for the soul!"
In Scripture we’re told to build each other up not beat each other up, and that includes how we speak to each other.
However, notice how Scripture writes this command. It says let no foul talk "come out of your mouth." Interestingly enough, God seems to be very aware that we are far from perfect and when we are upset or in a tight situation, such foul words will come to us and we will indeed be tempted to speak them, but He tells us to make sure they don’t come out of our mouths. Now how do we do that? Well there are some specific ways that really work.
First of all we should realize again from Scripture in Ephesians 4:30, that when we do swear and allow such foul talk to come out of our mouths, it will injure and harm others. Far from building up a person, it calls up images which at the least are improper and at the worst are disgusting and degrading to others. Moreover, when we use foul language we are not only harming others, but as Scripture clearly states, we are upsetting God! When we swear, we are, as the R. S. V. puts it, grieving God. What that means is that he is upset and negatively affected by our bad language as well. In short, our cussing gets God upset. It disappoints Him. It brings him sadness over our behavior. It affects Him perhaps even more negatively than those at whom it’s aimed.
Secondly it has to be said that when we cuss or use foul language, we are sinning against God. We are doing what is sinful and somehow justifying it. I like to use the analogy that when we commit any sin, boldly and knowingly, it’s just like picking up a hammer and driving the nails in Jesus’ Hands all over again and acting like it’s nothing! That’s the image that really convicted me. I actually came to see my flagrant and arrogant use of foul language that way. Each time I used foul language, it was as if I had picked up a hammer and just drove another nail into His Hands!
I’ll never forget teaching on this subject in an adult class at a wonderful Church in The Dalles, Oregon. Later that day, a man confessed to me that he was struggling with the problem of swearing. He certainly was a Christian, but he’d been brought up in a tough lifestyle and had been a marine and worked in a tough profession where cussing was just a way of life. Yet, after hearing the teaching and what was in God’s Word, he felt convicted by The Holy Spirit that what Scripture said about this subject was correct and he felt he had to do something about it. So, he told me what he had to do was come up with a word that he could use when he became upset that he could substitute for his swearing. I told him I agreed with him and with joy in his eyes he told me he had already come up with the word. He told me that whenever he felt he was going to swear, he’d use the word NAILS!
I feel it’s fair to say that based on what Scripture shares with us on this subject, swearing, cussing and the use of foul language is inconsistent with and damaging to a good Christian witness to others. The opposite is also true in that when one stops cussing, that gets noticed by others around us and it in and of itself, gives a good witness to what we are trying to do by obeying God.
However, we must never forget that we can never do this ourselves. We must ask The Holy Spirit to give us the ability to keep those foul words from exiting our mouths. It really does work, especially when we admit to God that what he says about the use of foul language is correct, and to continue to use it in spite of what He says is just plain wrong.
The Fruit Of The Holy Spirit are mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Self control is mentioned there and if we allow The Holy Spirit to have control of this area of our lives, we will see a big change.
As I said earlier, I was one of the biggest users of foul language you could find and I kept using it even after I became a Christian until I was convicted by The Holy Spirit of how wrong it really was and the damage it does to others.
Now I suppose I could have said that I live under Grace and swearing once in awhile is really nothing to fret about. God loves me and therefore He can certainly see I am a sinner, so why get so legalistic about this whole thing? Well the problem with that is that it can carry over to other things like lying. If I feel that "minor cuss" words are now alright with God, it’s only a short leap until "white lies" are alright too and perhaps a "little cheating on my taxes or my wife" can come under that big Grace umbrella as well.
We are supposed to live in obedience to God’s Word by The Power Of The Holy Spirit living in us. To sin boldly and just assume it will be covered under God’s Grace, is a serious mistake. Those who prefer to do that, often will see articles like this as just way too legalistic. They pronounce such positions as being like what The Pharisees held in trying so hard to keep all of The Law. Yet, the difference here is immense. We are supposed to try, by God’s Spirit, to live a life that is pleasing to Him and in obedience to His Word BECAUSE He’s saved us. That’s very different from what the Pharisees were preaching which was to keep The Law in order that one day we could be saved.
Many Christians today have adopted a theology which says that we should just live the best life we can and never worry about our sins, since they are covered anyway by God’s Grace. I’d submit that those Christians today are akin to the Christians at Rome who were going this same route and who actually felt that since God’s Grace was so wonderful, they could actually sin more boldly if they felt like it, because that would give God even more opportunities to pour out His Grace on them. Through The Apostle Paul God straightened them out quickly in Romans 6:1.
So I committed to "not allowing any foul language to come out of my mouth." I depended on God’s Holy Spirit for the strength and ability to make that happen and it has indeed worked. This may sound like boasting, but it’s really just boasting about what God can do through a sinner like myself. In Scripture we’d told that if we’re going to boast, boast in The Lord. Well, I can do that by telling you that my children are now 26, 24, and 19 years of age and none of them have ever heard a single swear word come out of my mouth, and trust me, in their teenage years especially, they gave me plenty of reason to let a few fly. However, by His Grace, my tongue has been kept under control and it has made a real difference in our home, our lives and our witness to others for Christ.
I’d be lying if I told you I’m never tempted to swear when I’m angry or upset with people. Yet in reliance on The Holy Spirit and desiring to obey God for the right reasons, I’m able to stop those words from coming out of my mouth. You can too and all the credit and glory for that goes to God.
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