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I read an interesting article that was posted on Facebook yesterday by J. Lee Grady titled, “Why I Don’t Use the F-Word” (click here for article). While I don’t keep track of the various issues within the Christian community that are going on out there today, I do know there is a segment of primarily younger folks (well, 40’s and under) within the Christian subculture that think swearing is okay in an effort to be “relevant” to our culture. In this article Mr. Grady discusses the topic and he makes the following three very relevant statements:
1. Filthy talk defiles you and those around you. Jesus said it is not what goes into the mouth of a person that defiles him, but what comes out of his mouth (Matt. 15:11). Then the apostle Paul wrote, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths” (Eph. 4:29, ESV). The word corrupting here refers to rotten fruit or rancid fish. Filthy talk stinks! Dirty words have the power to soil you—and the rancid odor will linger in your soul.
2. Obscene or crude language is a reflection of your inner character. British preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “Beware of everyone who swears: he who would blaspheme his Maker would make no bones of lying or stealing.” Ephesians 5:4 says filthy talk or crude joking are not “befitting” a Christian (ASV). The NIV translates it this way: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place.” If a Christian defiantly insists on talking trash, he has revealed deeper flaws and can’t be trusted.
3. Rough language is a sign of an unsurrendered will. The psalmist wrote, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Ps. 141:3, ESV). Mature Christians invite the Holy Spirit to inspect every area of their lives: attitudes, thoughts, grudges and addictions—as well as coarse language. If you insist on holding on to carnal habits, you are quenching the Spirit’s fire. Your spiritual growth will be forever stunted.
After reading the article, I made the following comment on Facebook and another woman commented on my comment (I’ve included both comments below):
Sara D: Trash talk . . . what about trash action? Looks can kill and physically “say” the same thing as any swear word out there. Let’s not forget there’s a whole lot more to being Christian than just what comes out of the mouth. And, I’d rather hear someone say the “F” word then gossip about others. Gossip destroys people, reputations, lives. The “F” word usually indicates anger at something or someone or because it is just so common now people don’t think twice about saying it. Right or wrong, that’s the way it is in our culture. However, if you want to write an article on “words” write one on the incredible damage brought on by gossip. I’d rather someone say “F” you then lie about me behind my back with gossip intended to destroy me or my reputation. Think about that . . .
Angela P: You are absolutely right–but Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (emphasis mine). That includes cussing, gossip, slander, anything that brings down another person. And when I hear a string of cuss words coming from someone, either Christian, which should not be happening anyhow but I am not so naïve to think that even with us it doesn’t happen because unfortunately it does, or otherwise- it shows just how limited a vocabulary they have. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t drop an f-bomb if Jesus were standing in front of me- and He is with us always! And I want what comes out of my mouth to reflect Jesus living in me–so I get what you are saying, but swearing and gossip and all that is pretty much in the same category… hope you have a blessed day.
I realized after reading Angela’s response that I may have caused a bit of confusion when I stated in my comment “I’d rather hear someone say the F-word than gossip about others.” Personally, I don’t want to hear either–the F-word or gossip, so I didn’t mean to imply by what I said that swearing was or is okay. But I’ve also lived long enough to know that both are major elements within our culture and, yes, the church culture, too, although within the church culture gossip is the much more pervasive of the two, and I was trying to make a comparison that gossip is every bit has nasty as swearing–in fact, far more so because gossip destroys people and their reputations and nobody seems to think twice about that.
In Mr. Grady’s article, in his first point he makes a statement about what Jesus said in Matthew 15:11 (NIV), “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” However when this verse is taken in context with the surrounding verses, the meaning is not just talking about swearing but goes to a much deeper issue–a heart issue. Let’s reading what Jesus said in the context of the surrounding verses (Matthew 15:1-20):
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
The subject is not just about swearing or using a particular swear word that many folks hate hearing, it’s about much more as Jesus states in vv. 18-20: “. . . the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. It’s about a heart attitude that permeates everything we say and do.
The second reference in Mr. Grady’s first point references the apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29 NIV (which Angela’s response to me also references): “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Taken in context, the topic is much broader and, again, leads to our heart attitude and not just what we do or say outwardly. Here is the passage in Ephesians 4:25-32:
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Again, the passage is talking about a much broader subject than just swearing. We are admonished to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (and one of our favorite forms of malice is gossip–which is also slander). Paul also tells us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, (well, are we???), forgiving each other (well, do we???), just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Now, I want to make it clear at this point that I am not writing a rebuttal of Mr. Grady’s article because he is absolutely right about the subject of swearing and not just about the “F-word” but about swearing in general. When he quoted Charles Spurgeon in his second point where Spurgeon stated, “Beware of everyone who swears: he who would blaspheme his Maker would make no bones of lying or stealing,” it appears Spurgeon was specifically talking about using God’s name or the name of Jesus Christ as swear words which is just as pervasive in our culture today as saying the “F-word.” If you don’t believe me just watch most of the movies put out by Hollywood nowadays. So while his article specifically references the “F-word” it goes to a much deeper issue.
Also, I realize that Mr. Grady often writes to a younger audience in need of hearing the very things he has to say because our American culture has so inundated the Christian subculture with everything it says and does and offers to us that it has permeated the Church to the point where there is hardly any difference between how Christians live and how the rest of the culture lives. And that is a travesty of huge proportion which is evident by reading most of the New Testament on how we should be living our lives as Christians.
On a personal note, (and I’ve written about this topic before), in the privacy of my own apartment when I am angry I have been known to use the “F-word” as a way of expressing my anger, but I do not do it in the presence of other people nor in public. And I am not using that as an excuse, either. Most of us say and do things in the privacy of our own homes (or cars when we are upset with the traffic or another driver) that we would never thinking of saying or doing out in the public square. And that is an issue we need to bring to God to help us with the circumstances that bring on the angry outbursts and those issues are not for public consumption with others (which usually only leads to gossip). It is personal and private and nobody else’s business.
I agree with Mr. Grady that out in the public arena nowadays hearing someone say the “F-word” is almost as common as hearing someone say “Good morning.” And that says some not-so-great things about our culture as a whole and the general direction it has been going in over the past several decades. Disrespect for others is everywhere nowadays, in both our talk and our actions. And we don’t have to actually say “F-you” with our mouth when we can say it in our attitudes and the looks that we give to others (and yes, Christians folks are good at doing that, too). Nonverbal communication is 80% of all communication, and most of us can read it with 100% accuracy.
Christians are called to live differently, but do we? And that is at the very core of Mr. Grady’s article. Swearing is a clear reflection of a much deeper issue, as is gossip, and slander, and destroying others with our words, and all the other stuff we do to hurt others and then we just sit back and justify what we have done. And when we justify our bad behaviors, that is a classic sign of an unrepentant heart.
In 1976 Francis Schaeffer wrote a book titled, “How Should We Then Live?” It’s an excellent book that asks (and answers) an excellent question, and the New Testament is full of advice on how we, as Christians, should live–and it’s not written just so that we can point a finger at others when we think they are not living up to our particular standards (unfortunately, a common trait we, as Christians, have when judging others). No, it’s about how “we” should be living, regardless of how others are living. And Jesus had much to say about that in Matthew 7 (regarding judging others).
Swearing is just one symptom out of hundreds that lead to a much deeper issue, an issue for which Jesus Christ gave His life on the cross. Sin had been around since the days of Adam and Eve and it hasn’t changed one bit in all of these centuries or with all of our modern technology and conveniences or philosophies.
And there is only One cure . . .
And that cure is Jesus Christ . . . .
YouTube Video: I’ve posted this Bob Dylan song, “Gotta Serve Somebody,” a few times in the past but it is so relevant that I am posting it again (sung by Shirley Caesar):
Ever think about the labels we put on people, especially those we don’t know or know well? Here’s a few for you: Glutton, wino, drunk, crazy (years ago the word implied being “demon-possessed”). These were labels given to Jesus Christ (see Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34, John 8:45-50) by the religious folks and others during His time on earth. He was also labeled “a friend of sinners” (Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34) which is the only accurate label in the list. So accurate, in fact, that He went all the way to the cross for sinners.
Imagine looking through your family tree and finding this description of your ancestor: “A prostitute, she harbored enemies of the government in her house. When she was confronted by the authorities, she lied about it.”
What would you do about her? Hide her story from anyone inquiring about your family? Or spotlight and praise her in the legends of your family’s story?
Meet Rahab. If what we read about her in Joshua 2 were all we knew, we might lump her in with all of the other renegades and bad examples in the Bible. But her story doesn’t stop there. Matthew 1:5-6 reveals that she was King David’s great-great grandmother—and that she was in the lineage of our Savior, Jesus. And there’s more. Hebrews 11:31 names Rahab as a woman of faith who was saved from the fall of Jericho (see Josh. 6:17). And in James 2:25, her works of rescue were given as evidence of her righteous faith.
God’s love is amazing that way. He can take people with a bad reputation, transform their lives, and turn them into examples of His love and forgiveness. If you think you’re too bad to be forgiven or if you know someone else who feels that way, read about Rahab and rejoice. If God can turn her into a beacon of righteousness, there’s hope for all of us. ~Dave Branon
Redemption’s price our Savior paid
When all our sins on Him were laid;
He took our guilt, He bore our shame
That we may glorify His name.~D. DeHaan
Whether our sins are great or small,
Jesus is able to forgive them all.
“He (God) can take people with a bad reputation, transform their lives, and turn them into examples of His love and forgiveness.” So why is it we don’t cut others much slack? Why is it we are so quick to judge others especially when we don’t know all the facts? We condemn but Jesus doesn’t. We throw others on the garbage heap with our labeling and our gossip, but Jesus takes them where they are at and cleans them up and totally changes their lives. The only problem Jesus had with people was with the “religious folks” of His day, and you can read what He had to say in Matthew 23. It’s not very pretty . . . .
I’m reading an excellent book recently published by Chosen Books (Baker Publishing Group) titled, “Fearless Daughters of the Bible” (2012) by J. Lee Grady. He also has a blog, “Fire in My Bones,” at CharismaMag.com and is the founder of The Mordecai Project, a Christian ministry devoted to healing, protecting and empowering women around the world. The book is about 22 women who challenged tradition, fought injustice and dared to lead and includes many examples of modern day women as well as their biblical counterparts such as Sarah (Abraham’s wife and the mother of Isaac), Ruth (the Moabite who married Boaz), Hannah (the mother of Samuel), Esther (Queen of Persia), Deborah (Judge of Israel), and many others to include unnamed women like the five daughters of Zelophehad, and the Samaritan woman.
At the beginning of the chapter titled “Ruth, the Moabite” (with a subtitle of “The Courage to Forsake the Past”), pp. 53-67, I was surprised by an easily overlooked fact that the author points out in four verses from the genealogy of Jesus Christ at the beginning of Matthew (1:3-6). Here’s that passage:
“Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.”
Since Lee Grady explains it much better than I can, the following three paragraphs are from his book on pp. 54-55:
“God reveals His amazing mercy in the details of this list. Notice that among these descendants of Abraham, four women are mentioned. This is highly unusual since women were rarely listed in genealogies during the time of Christ. What is even more striking is the type of women who are included. For one thing, three of the four women are Gentiles–and although Bathsheba was probably a Jew, her husband was a Hittite. So much for ‘racial purity’ in Christ’s lineage.
“Secondly, each of the women mentioned represents a moral scandal. Tamar’s relationship with Judah, her father-in-law, was illicit (she posed as a prostitute and he slept with her, and then tried to cover up his sin before he was exposed); Rahab ran a brothel in Jericho; David had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba (and then had her husband killed to cover his tracks). And Ruth? She was from Moab–a land outside the borders of Israel that was founded by Lot through an incestuous relationship with his older daughter.
“Prostitution. Incest. Adultery. This sounds more like ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ or ‘Desperate Housewives’ than a biblical narrative! But it reveals another amazing thing about the Bible: Scripture does not offer us a sanitized view of life. The Bible is raw. It tells us how God works with broken, sinful people, and it does not mask their problems or hide their flaws. It should comfort all of us that Jesus Christ’s earthly family had plenty of skeletons in its primitive closets. He was born into a dysfunctional family–and that should give hope to all of us who need forgiveness and cleansing from the ugly secrets of our past.”
Gives new meaning to what Jesus had to say in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” doesn’t it? I’m not pointing fingers as I’ve been there plenty of times myself. We all have skeletons in our closet–every last one of us. And many times we judge others from the gossip we hear about them without even knowing them. And reputations and lives are demeaned and destroyed by the labels we’ve placed on others and by gossip spread for less than altruistic reasons (and many times for selfish and self-serving reasons).
The next time we find ourselves ready to label or gossip about another person for any reason and especially if the information was received by way of gossip–whether in the work place, or church, or out in the public arena or some other type of social gathering, or walking by a homeless person on the street–stop and remember the skeletons in your own closet. How would you fare if your life was put on display in a 24/7 reality show for all the world to see, for example? Not a pretty picture, is it?
Glutton, wino, drunk, crazy . . . the folks back in Jesus’ day were dead wrong about Him. Jesus was the only sinless person to ever walk this earth (and He is the only Son of God), and He came to save sinners–that’s all of us, folks.
That’s all of us . . . .
So let us remember instead. . .
“There but for
the grace of God, go I”
~John Bradford (1510-1555)
YouTube Video: “China Grove” (1973) by the Doobie Brothers:
Photo credit here
Dictionary.com defines “compassion” as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Galatians 6:2 states, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Both of those descriptions are overshadowed in our culture today by the all consuming theme of “Looking out for #1.” Whatever happened to the expression “There but for the Grace of God, go I”? How easily we forget that we could end up in their shoes.
Dr. Charles Swindoll addresses this issue in his devotion titled, “A Place to Unload.” Let’s read it together:
A Place to Unload
This thing called life is an awfully long journey. For some, it seems an endless trip, filled with thankless responsibilities and relentless tasks, disappointments and deadlines, and daily demands.
Being imperfect doesn’t help. Every so often we make stupid decisions. We say things we wish we could retrieve. Selfishly, we look out for number one and later regret it. We act impulsively and realize, after the fact, how foolish we were, how dumb we looked. On top of all that, we hurt the ones we love the most. All this stuff caves in on us at certain times, and we wonder how anybody could ever love us . . . especially God.
When we start thinking like this, we need to turn our mind to the “one anothers” in the New Testament. Here’s just a sampling: Love one another, build up one another, live in peace with one another, confess your sins to one another, speak to one another, admonish one another, comfort one another, pray for one another.
I deliberately saved my favorite for last, “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).
Imagine two mountain hikers trudging along, each carrying a backpack. The one on the left has a tiny, light pack that a kid could carry, while the poor soul on the right is so loaded down we can’t even see his head or his body.
Let’s imagine what he might be lugging in that pack on that long road. It could be a long-standing grudge that’s poisoning his insides. It might be a broken relationship with his wife or one of his kids. That pack could be loaded with unpaid bills, all of them overdue.
The question is, Where can that fella on the right go to unload so the fella on the left can help “bear the burden”? By sitting in church alongside a few hundred or a couple thousand other folks? Hardly. What he needs most is to be involved in an adult fellowship in a small-group setting, a place where there is person-to-person caring and the opportunity for authentic sharing. Where he will feel free, without embarrassment or shame, to tell his secret or state his struggle; where someone will listen, help him unload, and give him fresh strength.
Adult fellowships and small groups are no miniature church services. They are pockets of people who love Christ and believe in helping one another. They don’t point fingers or preach or compare. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Once you begin unloading that pack, you’ll discover how much easier the journey seems.
I’m not sure how many years or maybe decades ago this particular devotion was written since the devotional book it came from is a compilation of experiences from Dr. Swindoll’s life and ministry. I’ve read many of his books starting back in the early 1980’s and he has a way of hitting the nail on the head and saying it in such a way that not only is filled with the compassion from a pastor’s heart but also admonishment when needed. And he calls a spade a spade in clear, easy to understand language. He speaks truth and doesn’t detour around the hard topics (like sin). And he’s one of my very favorite Christian writers.
I’ve been a part of small churches with barely a hundred or so members, and also several megachurches, including the largest megachurch in America when I lived in Houston. I used to be involved in adult fellowships and small groups especially in the larger churches as it’s hard to get to know anyone on a personal basis in a megachurch without being involved in some way (either volunteering or in a small group), but I steer away from that now.
One of the statement in Dr. Swindoll’s devotion above hit a sore spot with me–and not because it wasn’t accurate at the time he wrote it but because I don’t believe it is all that accurate in our current culture with it’s unrelenting focus on self, materialism, money, greed, and gossip. Now gossip has always been around but it has spread like cancer in our churches and nobody is even trying to stop it. And it’s a little hard to let your hair down and be real in a small group that gossips behind your back when you’re not around. And I’m not so sure by their actions and attitudes that they really are “my brothers and sisters in Christ.” And they don’t appear to have my best interest in mind, either. And help with my load? Really?
Welcome to “Churchianity” in America 2012–the land of “looking out for #1” above anything or anyone else. I don’t get a “warm, fuzzy feeling” walking into a church anymore. For the most part, except on Sunday morning, folks in church don’t act any differently then the rest of the culture. While nobody is perfect I remember years ago a time when I actually felt people (well some at least) in the churches I attended might actually care, but no more. Many churches in America have turned Christianity into a money-making business just like any other business out there (and just look at all the “million-dollar” ministries that exist in America today–not saying that all of them are bad but most of them have the “bottom line” in mind and most like living the lifestyle of the “rich and famous” and are selling you on it, too). After all, we all want “the good life,” right? And they are good at selling us on how to find “the good life” (which has also made them rich). Most of the time it just doesn’t happen to include Jesus. Remember Jesus?
But back to the topic at hand. The last place I’d feel safe to “unload” anything of any importance or a burden is with anyone who calls themselves “Christian” right now. Many (but not all) have given me lots of reason why I can’t trust them over the past few years. Not everyone, mind you, as I still remember a wonderful woman at the church I attended in Houston who slipped me a $20 bill one Sunday (I didn’t realize it until after she left to go home after church) when she heard I had lost my job and she also gave me several job leads which, unfortunately, didn’t pan out for me but it was sure more than anybody else did. And, I knew her particular situation and knew that $20 was a real sacrifice on her part as she was single, self-supporting and fostered seven children in her home at the time. I haven’t seen her since I left Houston over three years ago but I still have her phone number and I’d like to be able to thank her someday for the compassion she extended to me when everyone else just said “I’m praying for you” and walked away.
No, I don’t want to attend any more churches or be around any more church folks who are all talk and no action. I don’t want one more person telling me they are a “Christian” when their actions scream that they are no more concerned with my plight than Atilla the Hun. Fake “Christianity” is everywhere in America, and it’s because it is centered on “self” and what we can get from it. And plenty of pastors preach to that end, too (e.g., how we can “get more” from God and never addressing the issue of what we should be giving back–and not just with money, either).
We need to get back to real, authentic Christianity in this country. Does anybody even know what that looks like anymore? “Americanized Christianity” is just another product of the culture to sell to the masses–after all, it is a billion-dollar business in America. Just think about the implications of that statement, folks.
We need to get back to the basics (Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a good place to start):
. . . blessed are the poor in spirit
. . . blessed are those who mourn
. . . blessed are the meek
. . . blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness
. . . blessed are the merciful
. . . blessed are the pure in heart
. . . blessed are the peacemakers
. . . blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake . . .
Does any of that sound familiar, folks?
YouTube Video: “Long Train Runnin'” (1973) by the Doobie Brothers: