As I have been roaming through the blogosphere, I have noticed some Christians using language that wouldn’t be spoken from the pulpit. This question as to whether Christians should cuss has plagued me for about five or six years. After all, aren’t words arbitrary or irrelevant when compared to eternity. Well, I don’t think so. I think words relate to reality and what we talk about is an identifier to who we are on the inside. “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Is “crap” a cuss word? What about “damn”? Depending on the context, the words can be acceptable. For instance, if I communicate that sinners are damned then it is not cussing. But if I use it flippantly, then it should be classified as cussing.

Some might say I am splitting hairs and being too legalistic about it all. After all, don’t Christians have liberty? Yes, but we have been set free from bondage and for service to God. In other words, we have been set free from purposeless living so that we can proclaim his excellencies (1 Peter 2.9).

What we communicate with our lips tells others about our Jesus.

Doug Beaumont has an interesting article on this topic. Although I wouldn’t agree with this brother on all levels, I think he brings up some great points regarding cussing as a sign of laziness and looseness in living.

Thoughts??

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This post has 11 Comments

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  1. You may want to check out my blog where this has already been discussed. You’ll be very surprised how sensitive this issue seems to be even among seminarians. The post is called Christian Pottymouths?.

  2. Interesting article. Especially the part about the levels. Do you think over time these words can eventually loose their meaning or offensiveness? For instance if after a couple generations “c**p” came to mean “stuff” and no one knew the original meaning would it still be bad?

    I wish I was blogging back then Jason. Stephen at Silent Holocron calls it the “Great Cussin’ Blogwar”.

  3. Cuss words are HIGHLY cultural. When I come down to Kentucky, I will doubtless re-align my vocabulary. For example, in Quebec French, there is an entire class of cuss-words that are words having to do with the Catholic church, and are only swears when the context is right, but when the context is right, they are COLOSSAL swear words. A few representative examples are the french words for: Tabernacle, Communion wafer (Host), Orb, etc. I consider that class of cuss words to be the last remaining vestigial memories of a post-catholic, thoroughly postmodern culture. What is tragic is that many Quebecers don’t realize the origins of the words, and will be hard-pressed to not laugh aloud when discussing, say, the book of Hebrews.

  4. More to the point, If my use of the word, “crap” causes my brother to stumble, it is absolutely no imposition for me to purge it from my vocabulary. My freedom in Christ is nothing compared to the value of the sinner He bought with His own blood. On the other hand, if I can say, “crap” without causing my brother to stumble, it’s StrongBad time!!

    P.S., I think “y’all” causes me to stumble, ;)

  5. Sounds like it’s tough to be faithful Catholic in Quebec. I can’t imagine “host” being a cuss word, but I guess in some cultures people cannot imagine the name of our Savior used as a cuss word.

    I won’t disagree that cussing is usually a sign of laziness and loose living, but we need to keep in perspective that the condition of our hearts is of primary importance. Some people may have been raised by parents who cussed heavily or maybe there is a lot of cussing in their work environment. A person in that situation may struggle with cussing even if they are actively following Christ. Meanwhile, there are plenty of non-Christians who control their tongue quite well. Cussing is not usually a premeditated act, especially when it’s done out of anger. Changing our most basic instincts is a long process… it’s like quitting smoking.

    Which raises another question… should Christians smoke???

  6. Well, Mike, I think the link you provided is actually evidence FOR the position of this particular blog, as well as mine and Jason’s; and AGAINST your position.

    And that’s from someone for whom crap actually does mean “stuff” in certain contexts. But the actual substitution has never left–it still is a substitute for a vulgar word meaning “excrement.” Just because that vulgar word can be used to mean “stuff” doesn’t necessarily give us license to say it. Would you really go around saying “let me get my excrement and then we’ll go?” How tacky and disgusting you would be.

    If we’re going to trumpet “personal choice” over the clear teaching of Scripture, we’ve got serious attitude problems.

  7. I don’t understand why youhave to make this some personal attack on me, Stephen. You must have misunderstood the article I left a link to, because it doesn’t really give the conservative view any support.

    Please stay on topic and refrain from directing your comments on me rather than the subject.

    Peace

  8. Geez man, calm down. Nowhere in that comment did I personally attack you. Furthermore, my comment was very much on topic and relevant to the discussion that took place here and elsewhere.

    If anything, it was you who personally attacked me and Jason (the originator of this discussion) for questioning the position you and others took on this issue. I seem to recall you explicitly saying that I was “nothing,” among other things said about Jason.

    Let’s take a deep breath and sit back in our seats, shall we?

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get my excrement ready for class.

  9. Wow. A pretty touchy issue. Before people take things personally, let me clarify some points. First of all, we need to get rid of the trenches. That is, I am not trying to prove you wrong. Instead, let’s help each other bring in our thinking to a Biblical understanding.

    Secondly, let’s not bring in the conversation from some other blog here on the comments on my blog. That was another time, another place, and hopefully people have changed (on both accounts)

    Thirdly, I read the blog and comments that discussed this earlier and I think there needs to be more qualification than was done before. I wasn’t convinced on either side by the way it was talked about.

    Fourthly, I think it goes further than context. And even further than the referent of the word. I will post on this soon. I hope to bring some balance to both sides and have a clearer understanding of words, particularly, and communication, in general.

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What Is Sunday Worship?

I’m gonna keep this simple, but hopefully not simplistic. As you consider your corporate gathering of believers (typically on the first day of the week), there are three ways to think about it. You can think of it as an event, a participation, or a transformation.

The Event Model can take on two modes: emotionally-driven or cognitively-driven. The emotionally-driven mindset, of course, could baldly mean that you show up to hear some great music and hear a message. You go to watch and experience something. The cognitively-driven mindset could mean that you highlight the sermon so much that it becomes the point of your showing up. You hear this a lot in evangelical churches that the sermon is the most important aspect of the worship experience. The problem with such thinking, though, betrays an onlooker mentality. That is, I go to church to observe and consider and think and have my thinking changed.

In this model, there is an I-Thou expectation of the worship service. I go to that. I consider that. I am separate from and participate in that. In other words, this kind of approach to the corporate gathering is apart from who I am. I go to there. I leave from there. Sure, we talk about taking the message home with us…but come on! You and I both know we forget what was said within 10 minutes of leaving the building. When we are confronted with traffic on the way to the buffet. And then, we get bored. Bored with our lives. Bored with our faith. We find greater joy in our team winning the game than in our eternal salvation won at the cost of the Son of God.

The Participation Model is a little bit better than the event model. This puts the onus on the believer to come to the service seeking to be engaged in other people at church. For all the talk about this being a need in churches, and people nodding their heads in agreement…this does not happen in reality. People cognitively ascend to this truth, but they don’t fully grasp this truth.

If they do grasp a hold of this participation model, it often devolves into judgmentalism (others aren’t as serious about their faith as you are) or complacency (I asked someone how their walk with God is going and they gave me the cold shoulder). So what’s the problem with this model? Write simply it remains in the realm of I-Thou. That is, I bring something to you. I come to serve you. I am apart from and wholly different from you. At its root, it is simply another (albeit more spiritual rendition) of the event model. 

The third, and I believe more biblical model (of course!), is the Tranformational Model. This way of approaching the Sunday morning gathering sheds itself of the event. It doesn’t come in judgment of the service–I didn’t like that song. I liked the sermon. I really engaged with God this morning. Wow, what a wonderful time. Instead, it views Sunday morning as another step in my being conformed into the image of Jesus. It does see it as an event you come to. It is something we participate in. But preeminently it embraces the fact that over time we are being changed by the service itself. 

What does this look like? Well, it understands that every time we attend an event or participate in a service, we are slowly changing. You are much more different from the fifth football game you attended, than the first. You understand the language, the traditions, the cheers. 

So it is with a church service…and this is where it gets a bit thorny. With the typical evangelical liturgy (and it is a liturgy) of two fast songs, two slow songs, a sermon, and dismissal, we are slowly becoming consumers. Or better put, our already-ingrained consumer mentality is reinforced as we observe (and maybe participate). We watch the stage. We critique the songs–or what the song leader was wearing. We sit down and hear someone wax eloquently–or not. 

I fear that much of the problems we see in modern evangelicalism stem from us offering goods and services to people and not inviting them into be transformed. This fact is betrayed in much of the assumptions underlying decisions made on how the liturgy ought to roll. For example, since we need to be engaging and winsome in our communication of the Gospel, we need to play this popular radio song and do a Jesus juke to talk about how real love is only found in Jesus. Of course I’m not saying messages and songs ought to be fuddy-duddy and boring! Stop putting baby in the corner. 

What I am saying is that churches ought to be very clear in what they are shaping their people into becoming. We ought to understand that we are in the business of transformation–from one degree of glory to another. Not filling seats. Not being entertaining and relevant at the cost of depth. 

This is why at Christ the Redeemer, we have been intentional in our liturgy. We believe that the primary purpose of the Sunday morning gathering is the transformation of people. We have an explicit order to our service that follows the biblical storyline of Creation>Fall>Redemption>Consummation. Over time, people’s being is changed. It unwittingly becomes easier to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me” because you are trained to confess your sin every week. You more readily accept forgiveness because you are trained to hear God’s Word of Forgiveness to you after confessing. You more readily come to fellowship with God in spite of and because of your sin because you are trained that at the Lord’s Table you find satisfaction and rest for your souls.

Yes, Sunday morning is an event. But not merely so. It is something we participate in. But not merely so. It is preeminently another step in our being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The primary goal of Sunday morning is our transformation through intentional liturgies.

Sanitized Christianity

Below is a letter I just sent out to our church. I believe it might encourage and enliven your own faith, and share it with you to that end.

Redeemer,

What a gift yesterday was as we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. As I shared in my opening comments, it is a sad state when the Church doesn’t even know about the glorious celebration of the Spirit’s filling of believers. This is not to chastise other churches. Rather, it is a stiff reminder of why we do what we do when it comes to the church calendar and liturgy. It roots us deep in the rich history of the church. While so many believe they are searching for the new and fresh, it is actually the firm and tried forms the church has been practicing for millennia. Surely, there are dead expressions of this beautiful liturgy. Therefore, we want to know what and why we are doing what we do to safeguard from form without substance. We want to have the skeletal work of the liturgy with the breath of life (read “Spirit”) and muscular reflex (read “walking in the light”).
With that said, as I was preaching I was struck by the beauty of considering the utter power and creative work of the Spirit. As I looked out on our fledgling congregation, it was as if I could see the small band of disciples at Pentecost—only eleven. Yet, being filled with the same Spirit who created the world. The same Spirit who filled the Apostles to speak fervently and with full conviction. This same Spirit lives within us! Have you considered the sheer magnitude of that? Your life is not a mere appendix to the story of redemption. It is a continuation of this magnificent work to go and tell other to come and see. Every conversation you have is alive with opportunity and grace. Every glance. Every moment is resplendent with the glory and presence of God. What would our lives and our world look like with a band of disciples whose lives and decisions revolve around Jesus? Not around vacations and job promotions and being thought highly of by those we so diligently seek approval from.
So much of our Christianity in Greenville is sanitized. That is, we put the Spirit’s work in a box or in a moment. We minimize him. We relegate him to private moments. In fact, he is constantly at work. He gives us every breath we have (remember Psalm 104.29-30?). What our city needs is less concern for our preening and being made much of in the eyes of others. What our city. What our world needs is Christians who really believe, and who live in accord with that belief, that Jesus is always enough. He’s enough for our pain and suffering. He’s enough for our excitement and comfort. He’s enough for my job. He’s enough for my neighbors. He’s enough for my family. He’s enough for me.
May God fill our church with his Spirit so that the watching world will indeed say, “See what way they love one another!”
May the Lord open your eyes to the beauty of his work this week,
Matt

Abiding in Christ?

How do you abide in someone you can’t see or touch or audibly listen to? When Jesus told his disciples to abide in him, was it merely for them or is it something we are called to emulate?

To the first question, Jesus most certainly expected his disciples to abide in him despite not being able to touch him and hear him and see him. After all, John 15 (where the speech comes from) is right before his crucifixion. Too often our faith is wedded to too much wooden-ness in understanding. We veer toward, “Yes, but…” Like Thomas who would not believe unless he put his hand in Jesus’ side, so also our faith is not expansive enough. Blessed are those that have not seen and yet believe–which leads to the second question.

Jesus prayed not only for his disciples in the Garden, but for all those who would hear the Good News from his disciples testimony. When he responded to Thomas that those who have not seen and yet believe are makarios (“blessed”), he had you and me in mind. What we see unfold in Scripture after the Resurrection is the kind of effulgent life he wants us to live…and abiding life.

So how do we abide?

I would suggest three ways.

Keeping His Word

Throughout John’s Gospel and his epistles, Jesus tells us that if we love him we will keep his commands. Like a father who loves his child, like an older brother looking out for his younger brother, Jesus tells us how to navigate God’s world. Do we trust him enough to actually follow his steps?

This explicit teaching is what is called the Revealed Will of God. While God is constantly working in his world for his own purposes, part of that working is his condescension to tell us how to understand his world. That is, unlike the gods of the Ancient Near East, Yahweh determined to tell his people how to live. His Law is gracious and kind to reveal his ways to us.

All the Law hangs on Jesus’ admonition to love God and people.

Throughout the New Testament we see what it looks like to abide in Christ when we hear the Apostles telling people to put others before their own whims and preferences. We see this worked out as the Spirit comes at Pentecost and the Church extends to the uttermost parts of the world.

Led By the Spirit

It is no accident that John 16’s (continued) discourse on the preferment of the Spirit’s coming follows on the heels of Jesus’ command to abide in him. While the Law is gracious and good, we botch it up with our self-seeking and short-sightedness. We need the Spirit of God to guide us into all truth.

As I shared in my sermon on Sunday, there are three witnesses: water, blood, and Spirit. The first two speak to the doctrinal clarity and objective reality of who Jesus is. The third is the subjective application of these truths into the life of the believer.

Unfortunately the Spirit is equated with emotionalism and awkward and outlandish activity by those claiming to be Spirit-led. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, indeed. While the Spirit blows where he will, and does things outside our meager understanding, this does not necessarily mean that his working in incomprehensible or outlandish or alien (more on this in the third point).

What are some ways we can be led by the Spirit?

Well, he inspired the text of Scripture and has clearly spoken there. Go there.

In Ephesians 5.18, we are told to be filled with the Spirit. How? The participles that follow this command tell us how: Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. The Spirit is guiding and directing God’s people. Go there.

It would be good to reflect on each of these four participles and consider how you might be filled with the Spirit in ever-increasing measure. Are you speaking God’s songs over people? Are you singing to soothe the angst in your own heart? Are you grateful? Are you putting others’ needs before your own–considering them more significant than yourself?

Being Attune to God’s Working

One of my charges as a pastor is to help us see God’s continual work in the world. It is easy to wax on about God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence but to deny his power and that this means right here right now. He is not all these characteristics merely in heaven. While you may say, “Obviously!” In fact, many of us affirm these aspects of God yet we live life as though he is not at work in the mundane stuff of life. We talk about him and his superintendent work int he world…but we fail to see his work in my making coffee or standing in line or talking to a stranger.

The shift in our lives happens when we see him always at work. Always. In the mundane. In the suffering and pain. In the exciting. That is God working and shaping you.

Every conversation. Every. Conversation. Is opportunity to hear God speak to you. For him to shape you. Every appointment is a “divine appointment.” He graciously guides our footsteps. The person in the checkout line needs to hear of God’s grace. Your co-worker needs to know that God loves him. The annoying neighbor needs to see God’s mercy. Your family needs to experience peace in your words and actions. These are all God’s ever-present work. His beckoning us to abide in his word and his world.