Let’s come to an agreement. From what the scriptures say it is wrong to use foul language. Most of us can agree on that. The problem lies in the next question: What is foul language?
I believe the apostle Paul can be a guide here since he dealt with multiple cultures/contexts and wrestled with the gray areas of Christian living. From reading Paul there are three main issues to wrestle with when it comes to foul language:
Context. Being an aficionado of both the spoken and written word helps me understand the fact that language is contextual. The actual letters on the page; the syllables forming in your mouth mean nothing without the context surrounding them. As an apostle to the nations Paul lived by the maxim
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:20-22 ESV)
Calling. Here is where we have to get outside of ourselves and think about others. Our calling determines a lot about where we draw certain boundary lines on certain behavior. Why? Because our calling places us in different contexts which determine the meaning of our language. Obviously cussing in a retirement home would not go over very well. Although being called to South Boston (u saw Good Will Hunting) certain words may be considered appropriate. Being a senior pastor of a church or in politician are also callings where certain speech is out of line.
As an apostle to the nations Paul gave up his rights in order to pursue his calling (1 Corinthians 9:12-18). Many things may not be explicitly wrong but we surrender them to do what is expedient for the good of others and the gospel.
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. (1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV)
Conscience. Finally we get to the heart of the matter. If words are buckets filled and emptied with meaning depending on the context then how do we decide what is a curse word or not? Well Paul gives us some more direction in this matter through the book of Romans:
The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22, 23 ESV)
In other words, there are certain words that may offend your conscience even if they are appropriate for your context and calling. When it comes to man made words your conscience before God is a major factor in determining the boundaries of your speech. Is this something God has convicted your conscience about?
After all, Is God offended by certain words. I would say no. I have been around people who can tear you down without using the standard cuss words and I believe that is more offensive to God than a young teenage kid who gets a buzz from dropping the F bomb. What do you think?
Stay tuned for part 3 where we will examine biblical passages that may or may not be interpreted as cussing.