Christians that swear…?
In a society where swearing seems commonplace in conversation and speech, there is a growing trend in Christians who swear. It might seem unusual for some Christians, especially for those who have been believers for a long time, but to others, there is a surprise when they are challenged on their use of language. So, the question I want to ask is - should Christians swear? Before answering, let’s have a conversation:
Firstly, what do we mean by swearing?
To swear, is to use offensive language, specifically defined as curse words or in the States, Cuss words. Society has ranked these words, deeming some worse than others. For the sake of this blog, I am including all words that even lean toward such a definition. A modern contextualisation is to recognise that you can swear, or endorse swearing, by speech, written word, signs (often with hands/fingers) or even sharing written material (i.e. Facebook posts which include swearing).
Why do people swear?
The obvious answer is that it has become common in the lexicon of society. From children to adults, swearing can be heard in nearly every situation, even more so on TV or in movies. In fact, it is extremely rare to be in environment or to watch/listen to a program without hearing an array of swear words. Why does society swear? Simply because it does, it would be alien not to. Dare I say, it is simply habit with little meaning to it.
However, at a deeper level, swearing often signifies two opposite extremes, pleasure or displeasure. It is deemed that no other word will do – good, bad, worse, better somehow don’t carry the same connotations as curse words. You often see this in comedians when trying to develop a joke or conjure up emotion in their set. In this respect, swearing is an expression of an inward emotion that the individual struggles to explain in any other way.
What does the Bible say about swearing?
When an individual becomes a Christian, they surrender their life to Jesus, no longer living for themselves, now living for the purposes of God and for His namesake. In doing so, the old person (pre-Jesus) dies, and the new person (post-Jesus) now lives. That is why it says in 2nd Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The Christian is a new creation, no longer living as they used to, but now constantly being made new. In describing this change, Paul writes in Colossians 3:8 –
“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
Amongst other ‘old elements’ that the Christian is to turn their back on is filthy language from your lips. Other words for filthy could be foul or unclean. With our spoken word, we are to bless, we are to show love and grace instead of coarse language. In this, the Christian shows the change that has taken place in following Jesus – the old is done away with, the new is established. Yet, why should the Christian be concerned about what they say? James 3:6 states “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Our language, the tone of how we speak and the motive behind it can cause disaster, just as a wildfire ravages the land, so language can utterly destroy. The tongue (our use of language) needs to be tamed, the Bible is full of warning and instruction with regard to swearing, here are some examples:
Proverbs 4:24 “Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.”
Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Ephesians 5:4 “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”
God had such a desire for pure speech in his people that in his 10 commandments to Moses, number 3 was “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
It is clear throughout the Bible that swearing, cuss words and obscenities are all defined as the actions and behaviour of the old person pre-Jesus. The Christian is to use their tongue, or their language, to build others up, to encourage them and to spur them on.
So, should Christians swear?
Simply, no! God explicitly states on several occasions that swearing is not a behaviour shown by a follower of Jesus. To make sure we understand this in a modern context – whether saying, typing, mouthing (under our breath) or sharing a Facebook post which includes swearing, the use of coarse language is not something the Christian should do.
James 3:10 states “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” Are you glorifying God with your language?
Pastor Ross Ferguson