In The Swearing Christian, I asked you for your opinion on swearing/cussing/profanity/vulgarity as far as the Christian is concerned. You can see the various answers to that question in the comments section of that post.
I promised to give my 13 cents, so here goes.
Certain words are offensive in the hearing of much of our culture. Before someone pipes in and says, “but swear words aren’t offensive to the culture,” think again. I was a high school teacher for many years and there were words that were “offensive” and couldn’t be used by the students nor the teachers without rebuke. That hasn’t changed in most public school systems today.
Further, many parents don’t wish their children to use certain words (you know what those words are). If such words aren’t offensive to a sizable portion of the culture, then why tell children and students not to say them?
So the fact that certain words are offensive to the culture – in general – is without dispute. The question that is in dispute is: is it acceptable for Christian to use such words? We are living in a time where there is less of a consensus among Christians than ever. For instance, I’ve seen arguments condemning and approving the following behaviors by Christian people:
*watching R rated movies
*having premarital sex
*listening to “secular” music
*supporting gay marriage
Swearing/cussing/ profanity/vulgarity, etc. is another topic to be added to the list. Just look at the responses to my first installment of the subject. In the comments section, some of you put together cogent arguments justifying the use of profanity. Others put together equally cogent arguments arguing that the use of such language is fleshly. Still others dissected the difference between being vulgar and using profanity.
Let’s reframe the question. Instead of looking at it through a legal lens – right vs. wrong – let’s put the question on a different mountain. Is the use of certain words that are considered profane/vulgar by the general population a help to the gospel of Jesus Christ or a distraction from it? To put a finer point on it, here are five questions to ask yourself within your own heart that may help you to navigate the issue:
- Are you addicted to using profanity? A Christian should not be in bondage to anything (see Romans 6).
- For some people who are in the world system, using profanity gives them the impression that you are no different than they are. I’ve heard people make this case all my life. “Christians are no different than us. They cuss, talk bad about other people behind their backs, gossip, slander, back-bite, and chew up their own. I don’t see anything that sets them apart from me, so why would I want to join them?” Is it possible that any of your friends or coworkers feel this way when a Christian uses profanity/vulgarity?
- Do your spiritual instincts tell you that profanity/vulgarity is wrong? Before you answer that, determine if your conscience is operating or if it’s seared in that area. (A person’s conscience becomes seared when they keep ignoring it when it nudges them about something that’s not in line with the Holy Spirit.) One way to determine this is to ask if it ever bothered you in the past.
- The heart is connected to the mouth. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Do you think that profanity/vulgarity in your own life reveals a problem with your heart?
- Does your manner of speech violate either of the following texts?
Ephesians 4:29 – “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 5:4 – “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”Again, I’m not asking you to answer this question on this blog. This is for you to examine when you’re alone with the Lord.
Two further thoughts:
- Some argue that Paul used profanity in Philippians 3:8 saying that the word “skubalon” is the equivalent of “sh—” today. That’s debatable. The word has a broader range of meaning. For instance, BDAG: useless or undesirable material that is subject to disposal, refuse, garbage [in var. senses, ‘excrement, manure, garbage, kitchen scraps’]. Some translations have “rubbish.”
- Some argue that Paul allows just about everything in his statement, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” However, most scholars agree that the phrase “all things are permissible” is a slogan that the Corinthians were waving around. Paul quotes them, and then responds with “but all things are not beneficial or edifying.”
In summary, if you can answer a resolute “no” to the above five questions, you probably feel free in the Lord to use profanity/vulgarity. If you cannot answer “no” to them all, then you may wish to reexamine your speech before the Lord. For “in His light we shall see light” (Psalm 36:9).