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  • Writer's pictureMichael Jakes

Profanity in the Pews

What did he say? My mind blinked. Then it paused just before it began to race with a flood of emotions. How should I react to this? Should I be angry? Embarrassed? Offended? I sat there nonplussed as my brain struggled to make sense of what my now burning ears had just heard. I mean the venue was safe enough or so I thought. This thing just should not have happened, under any circumstance. Period.

It was at a gathering of chaplains, of which I was one, that this verbal assault on my person took place. As an aside, most of us there were either pastors or ‘bishops.’ We were there in a local church to pray, worship and fellowship. All was going well. There was vibrant singing, praise and a time for testimonies. That was when it happened. After several brothers had testified of the goodness of the Lord, the brother who would be the keynote speaker for this session stood up. He took his place behind the pulpit. He began to speak. He had a testimony too. All the details escape me now but evidently he had been pulled over by the police for some reason or another earlier that day at a traffic stop. They asked him for his license and registration, which he submitted. Then it seems that there was some sort of verbal altercation between himself and the officer. In the brother’s relating of the story he began to speak verbatim portions of this altercation. He said the officer called him a m******%@!!! This word was sprinkled throughout his testimony! I do not question whether the officer was right or wrong to do that. Obviously as an officer of the law, that was not his place, but that is not my point here. My question and observation is this: Why, O why, O man of God are you: a) using such language, b) using such language inside the church, and c) using such language inside the church behind the pulpit?  It would have been enough to simply tell us that words were exchanged, and that in the heat of the moment the officer called him an inappropriate name. It was not necessary to take us there. I think we would have gotten the point. As I recall, this whole thing ended well for the brother. There was no arrest, tickets or citations given; and he was thanking God for that. As I sat there though, I noticed that everyone seemed to be more shocked that the officer had used such language, more than the fact the ‘man of God’ was using such language. At the close of the testimony, shouts of ‘Praise the Lord!’ and ‘Hallelujah!’ could be heard over the loud applause. Shame, shame, shame. He proceeded then to preach. I never heard a word.

Profanity among Christians is something that usually flies under the radar. It’s just not spoken about much. It’s one of those things that follow some into their Christian life after they have gotten saved. Take me for instance. Before I was saved, I cursed like the proverbial sailor. I like to say that I probably invented some of the combination of words people use today. I was bad. But when the Lord saved me, something happened. It did not happen overnight, but within six months, I was delivered. I didn’t curse anymore. Really. Because I now had the Holy Spirit within me, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it. I know my story is not everyone’s story, but if profanity is still an active part of your life after several years, something may be wrong. No, I’m not coming from a holier than thou point of view, or saying that my sin is not as bad as yours. We all have struggles. It’s that profanity is just so ‘out there.’ As we interact with people throughout our day, and these words fly fast and free, and they know we are Christians, what are they thinking? Someone once told me about an individual they worked with who happened to be a deacon-he let everyone know. Only don’t let anything go wrong in the office. He would curse up a storm. The classic ‘cussin’ Christian.  Hey, I also realize that profanity is only a symptom and a by product of a more serious problem such as worldliness, carnality or even a backslidden condition-all of which pretty much go hand in hand. With that being the case, I will not attempt to be exhaustive here, but I do want to try and shed a little biblical light on this most vile, but acceptable vice. I call it acceptable because as I said earlier, no one says much about it; it’s just an ‘oops moment’, if that, and it’s just swept under the rug as if nothing ever took place. No harm done. But it’s just not good. Especially for anyone who names the name of Jesus and calls themselves a Christian.

When we search the scriptures, we discover profanity’s true nature. In Colossians 3:8 we see that it is filthy. It reads: But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. There it is. That statement comes on the heel of a list of things that scripture says we should mortify, that is , put to death. Kill it. The phrase filthy communication is actually one word in the original language. It means foul speaking or low and obscene speech. This verse also says that it should be put off, laid aside and cast off. It’s also interesting to note the sequence of sins here. Each one is connected to the other; in other words, anger leads to wrath, which leads to malice which leads to blasphemy (which is evil speaking), which finally leads to filthy communication. We then read in Ephesians 4:29 that it is corrupt. This verse says: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Profanity certainly doesn’t minister grace to anyone. Just so you’ll know, that word corrupt there means: rotten, unfit for use, of poor quality and worthless. A quite apropos description of profanity don’t you think?. I could cite several more scriptures but James 3:10 comes to mind: Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Come on my brothers and sisters. You can do better. Let’s bring our tongues to the cross and ask the Lord to cleanse us. It’s only through the cross that we will find release from whatever binds us. Remember that it is for freedom that Christ has made us free…Galatians 5:1. Let’s walk and talk in that freedom.

I claimed the following verse as my own several years back during a particularly rough stretch.. I leave it with you. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O lord, my strength and my redeemer. Psalms 19:14

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

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