When my wife and I were first married, we decided to buy a dog. We named the black lab puppy Maggie. She was fun and loving. But she was determined to get out of our yard. This resulted in an ongoing battle between the dog and myself. Eventually this little war led to me installing a new chain link fence. I dug holes in rock hard ground, cemented the posts, attached the chain link to one end, and stretched it out. All that was left to do was attach the stretched out chain link to the post. I was hot, tired and frustrated, but I could see the end of my journey. However, keeping the chain link stretched while inserting a bolt through it proved close to impossible. I attempted again and again, but it just wouldn’t work. Finally, I got the bolt through, and with my two free fingers screwed the nut on the end of it. As I let go, I let out a sigh of relief. Suddenly, the nut popped off, the bolt shot out, and the chain link rolled up toward the other end.
I was overwhelmed by pure, burning anger. I grabbed my socket set to chunk it, somehow thought better of it, and instead grabbed a loose piece of pipe. As I hurled it as far as any human as ever hurled a piece of metal, I screamed the mother of all curse words!
Ever feel like you are being watched. You just can tell some eyes are on you, even though you know you are alone. I turned to look, and on our back porch stood my wife and my intern. My ministry intern. He was returning something he had borrowed. But he got way more than he bargained for. And in that very moment I swore (the other kind of swearing) to never again utter a curse word.
As Christians we often have a strange relationship with four-letter words. We avoid saying them (or if we do use them, we do it only in certain settings), we punish our children for uttering them, and we avoid them in movies and other media. Yet most of us couldn’t say what makes these words wrong. And among Christians there is a wide variance on how offensive these words are, and how important it is to avoid them.
Interestingly, Jesus does not have much to say about “cussing.” He does seem concerned with what comes out of our mouths, but in a much more general sense. Jesus’ concern doesn’t seem to be avoiding certain words as much as watching every word. As children of the kingdom, our words are to reflect the values of the king. There is a huge difference between simply not cursing, and actually letting our words drip with Godliness.
You do not have to cuss at your child to crush their spirit with your words. You can just as easily put your wife down with sarcasm as you can a five letter word. The apostles Paul and James focus on words that bring dissension, cause schisms, and create disharmony. Most people would never curse at church. But how often do our words make fun of what others believe or practice. While I don’t condone cursing, we must ask who does more harm to the church: the good-natured fellow who accidentally lets one fly, or the mean-spirited man who would never curse?
Maybe what we need in the church is a little more swearing. Like, I swear to never talk about anyone behind their back. Or, I swear I will never again use harshness and anger to get my way. How about, I swear that I will try to use my words to bring healing and peace wherever I go. Or even, I swear that when certain thoughts and feelings and words begin bubbling to the surface, I will do the most loving act in the world. I will keep my mouth shut.