Some time ago, I did a post called ‘Should Christians Curse?’ You guys really engaged with it, and many of you said you liked it. (Thanks!)
Others, though, pointed out it’s not as simple as my post made it seem. (Thanks!) One thing that a bunch of you mentioned is how often God himself uses strong, graphic and offensive (at least to the original hearers) language in the bible.
I loved this comment:
‘Jesus used strong language when dealing with the Pharisees. The hypocrisy they demonstrated clearly drove Jesus crazy. When he was whipping them and flipping their tables I hardly think he was saying “it’s time to go, you bad people”. I’m fairly certain He gave them a divine punk out with colorful language.’
After listening to your comments, and reflecting myself, I’ve got to say I agree.
So, I thought it was time for a follow-up post to continue the conversation.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that God is too ‘nice’ to offend us, or, too prudish to talk straight up about things like sex. I suspect, though, that this is an example of making God in our image.
Because, when we actually look at what the bible says, it can get pretty awkward. I haven’t obsessed over this, but my initial impression is that strong language may be called for in (at least) these situations.
#1 To expose sin for what it is
Isaiah 64:6 (CEB)
We have all become like the unclean; all our righteous deeds are like a menstrual rag. All of us wither like a leaf; our sins, like the wind, carry us away.
In this passage, Isaiah laments the entrenched patterns of sin among God’s people, and compares their best efforts to… a tampon.
But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
When Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that he had to die on the cross, Jesus made the origins of that notion crystal clear. I’m guessing that caught the disciples’ attention and wound up in their mental scrapbook.
#2 To celebrate human, romantic love
Song of Solomon 7:6-8
How beautiful and pleasant you are,
O loved one, with all your delights!
7 Your stature is like a palm tree,
and your breasts are like its clusters.
8 I say I will climb the palm tree
and lay hold of its fruit.
Most pastors never preach through this book, but apparently God isn’t shy about sex or the fact that he created it (in part) for husbands and wives to enjoy. Apparently, he’s pretty excited about it and we should be, too. (See SoS 1:13; 4:5, 16; 7:3 for other examples.)
#3 To show his incomparable greatness
More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ, 9 and be found in him.
After ticking off his impressive resume from life before Christ, Paul says it was all a bunch of poop. In the original language (Greek), though, ‘dung’ most likely had the force of something between ‘crap’ and ‘sh*t’. (Check out the link for a short, but thorough, study of what’s going on here.)
Without question, Paul was trying to grab his readers’ attention. He knew how much they – and we – try to find our value in who we are and what we’ve done. But in comparison to God’s standards, what we’ve done is not only worthless (‘rubbish’, as some translations render), but also revolting (‘dung’). And if we don’t find refuge in Jesus, it will separate us from God.
Paul is echoing Isaiah’s message above, but going way beyond it to show how fully Jesus meets our desperate need by giving us his perfection so that we can be God’s friends. He knows that beating around the bush – ‘Hey guys, yeah, you’ve got some flaws, but give Jesus a try’ – isn’t going to pierce the bulletproof armor of our self-righteousness.
Sometimes, because he loves us, God has got to jack us up.
As we close, I’ve got to be honest and say that I still don’t see a biblical case for cursing Christians. At least not in the sense of just sprinkling in expletives here and there.
But, I want to give a big shout out to everyone who spoke up and reminded me that our use of strong, graphic and sometimes offensive language isn’t always neat and clean. God does use it to show us our sin, celebrate romance, and, showcase his greatness.
But, to borrow from the ‘as seen on TV’ ads: ‘Wait, there’s more!’ It’s not as simple as saying, ‘God uses (or doesn’t use) graphic language in this situation, so I should (or shouldn’t), too’.
In my next post, I’ll take a look at some guidelines and principles for when we should – and shouldn’t – use the kind of attention-grabbing language we saw in the passages above.
I have some pretty clear starting points, but in other ways, I’m still figuring this out. Let’s keep learning together.
The passages above show that God sometimes uses blunt speech to reveal sin for what it is, to show the joys of romance, and, to declare how awesome he is. Can you think of any other types of situations in the bible where strong language shows up?