I was laying awake last night and thinking about this post. Sometimes that happens to me, as the minutes or hours tick by and I’m consumed by insomnia, so I contemplate anything from this blog to counting backwards to my lack of organization skills in the kitchen.
Being both a pastor’s wife and a pastor’s kid has given me a lot of experience with this particular topic. I can’t tell you how many times someone has cussed in front of me and then, seeing that I’m present, apologized to me! I’ve never truly understood this need that I seem to inspire in others. Is it that I appear super-pious, so they feel they must have offended me? Is it the related-to-the-pastor thing that makes them think I can instantaneously send them to hell? Is it truly my presence that places remorse in their hearts? I doubt that. I’m still not sure why this happens, but it has happened a lot less now.
Maybe it’s an adult thing. Adults tend to guard their language a lot more, and feel less inclined I think to use curse words for the shock value. Maybe it’s the fact that I spend most of my time interacting with people at church than in other places. Whatever the reason, I’ve noticed a lot less “bad” words in my day.
The reason for the “” around bad is because I think it’s a relative thing. I know I’ve offended some church members along the way by using some of the milder explitives that are still shunned by a lot of Christians. These include words like sucks, crap, fart, and pee. But in my teenage years, I enjoyed using much worse words, mostly for the looks of shock they inspired on my friends’ faces.
What bothers me about all of this language being bad is that we’ve moved away from the original intent of the commandment that deals with cursing and swearing. The command is about using God’s name in vain. Yet we do that all the time. Throw out an “Oh my God!” and no one will bat an eye. But if you drop the f-bomb (unless you’re British, for some reason that accent makes it sound less horrific, at least in movies) and everyone will turn and look. PG-13 movies are allowed one use of the f word, and boy do they make the most of it. But I’d venture to guess that God’s name is used in vain many more times in such a movie, particularly the variety where “it” is being cursed through human words in God’s name (g-d-i).
It all makes me think about the words God shares with us in the book of James. God knew we as human beings would struggle with this issue:
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:19-27.
We waste our time worrying about which words are bad and which ones are good by the world’s standards, and we forget that the point is to keep a tight rein on our tongues, to care for those in need, and above all, to show the world the love of Christ. Whether I’m using a “bad” word, taking God’s name in vain, or hurting someone’s feelings with my words, it’s all the same. I can choose what I allow to come out of my mouth.