Can Christians use curse words?

This week, I thought that I would keep things a bit lighter. I'm pretty sure that using foul language is not a salvation issue, but I know that there has been conversation in the past about whether or not it is appropriate or acceptable to use profanity as a Christian.

One thing I should point out before we get too far is that I am not talking about taking the Lord's name in vain. I'm referring to the multitude of other cuss words...you know the ones. They're the ones that George Carlin shared with us in his routine about the seven words you can't say on television.


So, before anyone thinks that the simple answer is "No! Because it violates the Third Commandment!" I can assure you, that's not what I'm talking abou there. We're talking f-bombs, c-words and a whole lot of other things you don't usually hear in polite company.

On the one hand, it would seem as though we should not use profane language as a Christian. After all, just look at what he says in Ephesians 4:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29

Yet, by the same apostle, we look at another letter:

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.
1 Corinthians 6:12a

Now, granted, in the latter verse, Paul wasn't talking specifically about the language people use. But, if you look up just a couple of verses you'll see that he articulates quite a laundry list of various sins. It seems to me that with the list that is included, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to include cussing in this list as an implied thing.

So, there you are. The Bible contradicts itself. Therefore, the Bible must not be God's Word and therefore Christianity is completely false.

NOT!

To be sure, even if this was some sort of contradiction, it makes no implication on the truth or falsity of Christianity. You might have to get rid of scriptural inerrancy, but that's about it.

Fortunately, we don't have to worry about that, though, because it's not actually a contradiction. Paul took great pains to highlight the idea that we, as followers of Christ, are no longer under the Law. Christianity is not about following rules. It is about trusting our lives and our salvation to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

That being said, since He "first loved us," our response should be the love and the respect that He deserves for the sacrifice He made on our behalf to pay the debt of our sin. So, as Paul also points out in his second letter to the Corinthians:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us
2 Corinthians 5:20a

If we are His ambassadors, how does it make Him look when we use foul language? We represent Him to the people with whom we interact every day. Therefore, we should strive to be kind, generous, hard-working and keep our speech such that it glorifies Him. Abusive language and cussing like sailors just isn't a very glorifying picture of our Lord.

Now, if you are someone who cusses and yet claim to be a Christian, don't get to upset. While I think the Bible makes it clear that this sort of thing does not glorify Christ, it also seems to make it pretty clear that it's not a salvation issue. That does not mean that you have carte blanche to just cuss away. It just means that you won't lose your salvation because of it. But I would be remiss if I did not encourage any Christian who uses foul language to work on reducing and ideally eliminating such language from their vocabulary so that they are not off-putting to people seeking Christ.

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2 comments:

  1. My personal take is that the "cursing" they talk of speaks more of the expression/presentation than the actual words. You can say a lot of mean, nasty, hurtful things to people when you're angry without using a single profanity, and that I think is what the Bible is telling us to guard against. So, yeah "**** you" is bad, just like "you're a loser." But is "that was ****in' good!"?

    That said, I choose to avoid using profanities myself but for me it's more word choice.

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  2. @Dan,

    I agree. You don't have to use curse words to say something inappropriate, unkind or uncalled for. In fact, I am quite capable of being extremely caustic without using profanity.

    The main takeaway here was to address the question I often hear about whether or not it is "sinful" to use certain words that are considered profanity. That's one reason I like the 2 Corinthians passage about being an ambassador. If most people were to think of themselves in that sort of capacity, they might be more careful to clean up their language and pay more attention to how they speak, but I also don't want to make it sound like someone is "sinning" if they drop an f-bomb now and then.

    Thanks for the feedback. I always love the perspective you bring to various topics!

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