The other day I posted an ” innocent” question on my Facebook status: Is it ok for Christians to cuss? Unaware of the controversy it would spark I found myself in the middle of a serious debate between one side claiming that certain words were not supposed to be said at all against another side who claimed that words mean nothing without context.
The question came up because of something our pastor said this past Sunday about not watching movies or tv with cuss words (especially taking the Lord’s name in vain). And I began to wonder whether refraining from saying or hearing particular words was essential to the gospel or a cultural stumbling block, an extra burden added to the gospel. I will give my beliefs on the issue in the next post but for now let’s look at the relevant texts.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29 ESV) The emphasis here is on how we talk. The words we use should be for building up and not tearing down.
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4 ESV) The context of this verse is Paul exhorting believers to avoid sexual immorality and in the greek all the words for speech in this verse refer to speech that in classical times were or could be considered sexually immoral. It is clear that followers of Christ must not use words to promote or endorse sexual immorality. They must be use words of thanksgiving for what we have and not to lust after what we don’t have
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Colossians 3:8 ESV) The word “obscene talk” refers to speech that brings about shame on the speaker
So from the relevant texts we can gather that cursing has more to do with the purpose and goal of our words than the words itself. Are they corrupting and tearing down or are they building up? Are they full of thanksgiving or lust? Are they honorable or shameful? Stay tuned for part 2 where we talk about the role of context, culture, and the bigger picture of the gospel