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Sunday, May 2, 2010

When the Church Gets It Wrong: Perspective and Cursing

This is the first of a series I plan on writing about how Christians, me included, get it wrong when it comes to walking the walk and talking the talk.   It might be controversial, though I'm just trying to honestly be introspective and grow in my own walk as a follower of Christ.   Heaven knows, we don't need Pat Robertson to tell us how Nashville, currently suffering from severe flooding, is paying for their sins.   But how many times have we, for the "sake of the gospel," meant well and yet probably messed up our witness in a way we didn't mean?

I've been a follower of Christ since I was eighteen, and yes, I blow it each and every day. I try to live my life as authentically before God as possible, but at the end of the day, I have to relive the good and the bad, and try to figure out how to better reach a hurting world with the good news of Christ instead of rendering myself ineffective.

For example, this young zealot at one time would tell a complete stranger, "Have you been washed in the blood of the Lamb, yet?" What? Seriously? What on earth was I thinking? I can only imagine the poor guy sitting there in the mall eating his Dippin' Dots was seeing images of a Carrie movie or something. Okay, using Christian-ese is a bad way to witness. Got it.

And what about our witness with our language? I hate to say this, but when the whole "let no unclean thing come out of your mouth" was written, words like "pissed" weren't even invented. So who decides what kind of word is clean or unclean? And how far should we go to rid the world of potty-mouthness?

I'll tell you this. Those who don't follow Christ are not impressed that you say "poo-poo" instead of... well... shit.

But here's where my point comes in.

When I used that word, what was your initial reaction? Disdain? Anger? Ambivalence?

I remember a friend once told me about the first page of a Christian book he once read that shocked him. It said something like this:

There are billions of people in the world starving, and you don't give a shit. What's worse, you're likely more concerned with the expletive I just used instead of the billions of starving people. It's time to put our perspective in order.

That's always stuck with me. Does that mean I should just cut loose with F-bombs and S-bombs freely and loosely? What do you think? I've learned that people could care less about whether I can refrain from screaming a curse word when I crush my shin into the corner of a table. Rather, they desperately want to know that I truly, honestly care for them.

Like an older pastor once told our church, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

So what do you think? Have we as a church missed the mark when it comes to keeping things in perspective? Is our witness effective that we focus so intently on doing so right instead of making our lives about living in thankfulness for God's grace?

We're not perfect. I'm not perfect. I mess up. I curse. A lot actually.

I used to let this problem consume me. I gave it to God so often I ended up wasting time doing that instead of praying for my friends and thinking about how I could reach out to them in God's grace.

I needed a shift in perspective, and God continues to do so in my life.

Tonight I might not go to bed trying to figure out how to feed a billion starving people, but at least I can ask God to give me grace to love those He'll send my way tomorrow.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Any thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? I'm all ears. But please be kind.


  1. Maybe we should take a look at our level of brotherly love in the shadow of the Easter Message so recently celebrated. I think the purpose of why Jesus live among us was to show us a way of living. Living a live devoted to gathering those that were lost, loving those who had the doors of the Jewish Synagogue closed to them because they didn't follow the rules.

    We are responsible for helping those around us, those that we can see, or that we know about. Is it enough to give a meal instead of money, is it enough to extend a warm embrace, an quiet ear to listen, and a loving heart to share. To buy a tank of gas for someone and maybe give them a few extra dollars.

    Maybe we can't raise someone from the dead, but can we give someone hope by stepping in front of the stone that is in someone hand ready to condemn.

    God make us to love someone, to be loved by someone. Mankind needs to be comforted, and happy and connected to someone. It really doesn't matter if that person is different than you or the same as you. If two people can live together in love and kindness, than that's all that matters.

    Easter Season is not because God wanted him to die for us, but Jesus tried to show both Gentiles and Jews that there was a more meaningful life above all the Laws and rules of Jewish society. That a person could live with courage and hope and love for each other by loving and treating all others in the same manner love that Jesus had shown his Disciples during his 3 years of his ministry.

    So yes Lori, we can ask God to give us the grace to share with those who are hurting for their many reasons.


  2. Cursing? That's just part of what makes you who you are. Just as not cursing is part of what makes me who I am (and I know you like having fun with that!)

    What does that have to do with the price of food in Africa? Nothing...

  3. When I studied as a Buddhist monk, I was taught that each word I spoke had energy, power if you will. In the statement above addressing the need to get priorities straight, the profanity was used to make a point, to shock the reader into thinking. Being well placed got you and others to step back for a moment and think.

    I feel there is a difference between extensive usage of profanity and the occasional well placed profane word to emphasize a point.

    Nice article :)

  4. Great thoughts and questions. I don't think we should cut loose with whatever language we want. We should think about the words we say and whether we would be embarrassed if Jesus heard them, because He does, in fact, hear them all.
    That being said, even the apostle Paul cursed. He said "shit" in Greek. And he said it because that was most fitting word possible for the idea he was conveying. I don't think he was ashamed to say it, especially considering the context (Phil. 3:8). In that case, I think the word was actually God-honoring.

  5. I should think that the only real commandment with regard to "bad" language is about taking God's name in vain -- and even that has more to do with oaths (i.e., swearing) than with swearing (i.e., cursing). I don't recall a command forbidding the use of Anglo-Saxonisms, or the Hebrew or Greek equivalent.

    Some words are considered crude, and especially when they're nice sharp one-syllable words, we tend to use them as punctuation in certain situations (like hurting ourselves accidentally). But even though it's good to watch when and where we say such things -- it makes me cringe when kids do it on transit in the presence of young kids and older people -- I consider it overscrupulous to forbid such words without exception.

  6. I was brought up in an environment where you got your mouth washed out with soap and got told you would fry in Hell if you said a swear word.

    Then, I moved to Boston where, it would seem, that every other word uttered out of the mouths of those Italian and Irish Catholics was the F word. I quite got with the program myself.

    I remember, in Ireland, that oh so Catholic country, where the F'n word was used quite liberally. We were told, in advance of our trip, not to be shocked by the use of the word.

    But, really, after years of using swear words and realizing that I probably was not going to burn in Hell as a result, I finally came to the realization that it was just not civilized to swear in public. I rarely utter a swear word now. My religion didn't change me. It just wasn't me to say such words and it wasn't fair to others to have them hear me say those words. I also felt that the use of those words was very "male" and I just did not feel very "male".

    Just my take on it, Lori. Great topic.


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