Contend Earnestly: Cussing for Christ: Finding Meaning in Words: Part II

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cussing for Christ: Finding Meaning in Words: Part II

My last post focused on the thoughts of our words and which ones we have on our lists of "good" and "bad" words and how Christ saw these. We found that Christ focused much more attention on the context, culture and intent, than merely the word itself. Again, when one looks at words how Christ saw words, it will cause you to be more conscience of what you say and how you say it, not less concerned. Every time I bring up that words matter far less than culture, context and intent I get the same list of verses for a defense of why certain words should never be used. This usually happens because the person has an answer for my thinking while not listening to what I spoke about concerning Christ and his stance on words. Instead of ignoring them, as they ignored my reasoning, I oblige and challenge them on their exegesis by using all of Scripture, instead of pulling out certain texts from their context to employ them for my personal yoke.

Most notably, the verses that are used most often are the following:

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Ephesians 5:3-4

Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:6-8

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
Colossians 3:8

Now, when someone reads these verses, most of the time a list of words start popping up in your mind that should never be used. That is fine, but that isn't getting to the root of the issue that is being spoken of here. If you look at these verses some things pop out right away when speaking of words:

Filthiness, silly talk, coarse jesting, sound in speech, unwholesome word and abusive speech.

Most of the time, this is what is focused on when someone tries to combat my thoughts on language. While these are things that definitely should not be overlooked, I keep digging deeper with the person. There has to be more in these verses than merely us making up a list of good and bad words to use in our everyday lives. The reason I say this is that if we follow the shallow exegesis often employed with these verses we actually start putting God, his prophets and his apostles to the test.

Here are some examples that I think would make some of us cringe if we heard a pastor or friend use. These examples would all be considered coarse and filthy to even the world...I will warn you...some of these are very hard to read:

Your works are like a dirty, bloody tampon (Isaiah 64:6)

You were a whore when you were young, having your breasts fondled and your virgin breasts and nipples handled (Ezekiel 23:3)

You would rather be an adulterer because you love men that have a huge penises like donkeys and come like horses (Ezekiel 23:20)

To make God angry you were such a whore that when the Egyptians came by lusting after you, you spread your legs for them (Ezekiel 16:25,26)

God loved you so much that when you were born and thrown out in the open to squirm in your blood and die, He saved you and called out for you to live (Ezekiel 16: 4-6)

I count all things as crap, or animal excretion, or literal sh#t, so that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:8)

In 1 Kings 18 while Elijah is on Mount Carmel, Elijah mocks the prophets of Baal and asks if their god is on the toilet (1 Kings 18:27) and so busy that he can't answer them. Which is interesting because Baal has a derivation (Beelzebub) where it means "Lord of Dung".

We could actually continue for a while on this, but I think you get my point. To just open your eyes to the way that God uses language to get to the heart of the matter, read Ezekiel 16 and 23 fully. The imagery is shocking, which is its intent, so that the hearers would see their sin and turn back to God.

When I read these, and other parts of Scripture, I then go back to the above mentioned verses on language and ask myself, "What is God trying to convey in these verses so that His glory is displayed to all people?" Further, to try and think this through, Ephesians 5 starts with an interesting verse: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

So, when thinking through the verses on language, we should see language as God sees language, not merely our culture. So, when someone like Phil Johnson asks, "If newscasters don't use coarse language to get the news across, why should we?" He is missing the point of language and being imitators of God and not man.

If we are shallow in our understanding of the verses mentioned in Ephesians, Titus and Colossians we would, once again, find God in sin. There has to be more.

Just as food, sex, money and alcohol can be used for God's glory, they can also be used for indulgence in sin if not used correctly. This is a heart matter. Words must be used how God desires, and not how we desire. Words must used exactly how Paul puts it: only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment.

The moment is going to tell us what we should use and how we should use it. If we are speaking to a moralistic Pharisee who cannot see past their idolatry of good works, we might have to use some pretty crass words to pierce the heart as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jesus and Paul did. If we are speaking to someone caught up in sin, that has aborted a child and is struggling through the decision spiritually, we will use different words to show the forgiveness and grace of God. The moment is key! This is exactly how we see it through all of Scripture. Edification doesn't merely mean some sort of soft spoken Christian radio host telling you that everything will be okay and that God loves you. Sometimes people need to be awakened by a shout, where a whisper will just keep them in their slumber.

This elevates your language, it doesn't degrade it. It makes you really think which words will pierce the heart for the gospel and which ones will just fly by unnoticed.

You must know your audience, you must know the context, you must know the culture and you must speak Jesus straight to their hearts, where the Holy Spirit can thrust his knife of knowledge and split open their heart to see the King of Kings on His throne.

Do I believe that a Christian should carelessly use any word, in any context. No. That isn't the point of these posts. The point of these posts is that the words themselves are far less important than the intent and context which one finds themselves in.

The gospel, in the Scriptures, have been proclaimed in many different ways to many different contexts, cultures and peoples. Notice this and take the whole Bible as our guidance to God's glory, not just what makes you comfortable and not just what will make people like you. If you have a list of words you'll never use, you might want to check first with the Scriptures to make sure you aren't limiting the words that God wants you to use. I couldn't imagine if Ezekiel told God, "Sorry God, whore is not a word I am comfortable with, can we go with another one?"

I pray these posts will make us think more how to be biblical, edifying and God glorifying. I pray that we would desperately try and balance out the legalistic and antinomian in all of us and pray that God would continually make us more like him and less like our self made idols that we want ourselves to be like.

The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”
Exodus 4:11-12


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