I remember being a young teenager trying to come to grips with whether or not it was really wrong to drop the occasional curse word. Or, as was the case in my 7th grade year, to string together profanities in a fashion that showed a keen mind for the creative process. Granted, I only swore in front of my Christian friends because I didn’t want to have a bad testimony in front of my non-believing friends (that is so messed up!), and I reasoned: it’s only a word, what’s the difference between saying “Dang” or…
Of course that line of reasoning is a tad on the ridiculous side. Words have meaning, some of them are stronger or more direct than others, and some carry a special weight because of how the listener receives them. Whether or not society deems a word as “profane” or not is another interesting topic, but regardless: words have meaning. The good ones, and the bad ones, mean something and more importantly, they say something about the user.
(Incidentally, my cursing problem was almost instantly cured the day I dropped a special bomb while watching a football game one Sunday after church. My mother heard it, and asked, “What did you say??!” I tried to assure her I said a good Christian equivalent like, “Shoot, those raiders really Fricked up that play!” When my father came home his belt smacked me so soundly that every profanity I ever wanted to utter (past, present or future!) flew out of my consciousness for good. Haven’t had much of a profanity problem since then!)
My wife and I were talking about profanity and speech recently and how it seems like it cursing has become more common among believers today. It’s almost like “Hey, I’m not one of those fake Christians, I’m the real deal, and I use profanity to show how authentic I am.” I’m all for authenticity. If the church had failed the world in the decades leading up to the turn of last century, it might have been seen most glaringly in the area of living a true, authentic faith. We sometimes painted a picture of faith that made everything better and made all of our problems go away. Even Jesus indicated that in faith, your problems were just beginning! Faith gives us hope for those problems, but Christ didn’t promise any of us any easy life.
While we were talking about this topic, Traci made this comment: “Isn’t it interesting that Peter, when he denied Jesus, cursed in order to show that he didn’t belong to Jesus?”
I have never thought about Peter’s action at Jesus’ crucifixion as a defense of the idea that believers shouldn’t swear, so I spent some time looking up those passages and studying them out. One of the ones I focused on most was Mark 14:66-72, especially on verse 71: “He [Peter] began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘”I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’”
At first I thought maybe the passage would lead me a different way, but as I began to understand the greek words used in this story, and the way they were understood in Peter’s day, there is no doubt that Peter’s words were an ancient form of profanity. He profaned his own name and through profanity emphasized his own lack of relationship with Christ. And my wife’s thought hits me even harder: Peter spoke this way in order to distance himself from Christ.
Words have meaning and power, and the power and meaning of the words we use make it possible for us to communicate effectively and with emphasis when needed. Our words align us with causes (“#MeToo”), reveal our character (“I have a dream…”) and reflect something of our inner being (“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”).
What do your words reveal about you? With what causes do they align you? What do they reveal about your character? Most importantly, what do your words reveal about the contents of your heart?
Let’s all work to use words that “build others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29) and that reflect the heart of Paul for young Timothy: “…set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!