In the early days of our ministry I wrote a story about moerse gaps, an Afrikaans swear word describing something very big. It was a letter to my friend whose dad had died in a car accident and I wanted to describe the enormous gap that his dad had left behind with his sudden and unexpected death.
In response I received a oneliner e-mail from a well-known and loved theologian: “The gospel does not need swear words to give it impact.” At first, I did not take this criticism too well, but later on I realised that it didn’t matter how well I could justify using the word, it was still a swear word and not nice to hear.
8But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.
We get so used to the language used on TV that we start thinking that it’s simply common today for people to use profanity in everyday talk. Even among our friends we hear that kind of language and it is not unusual for us to speak that way too. But the question is whether Jesus likes it. If Jesus was standing there with you and your pals, would you feel embarrassed for Him if the others (and you) told your usual stories in the language you normally used?
We must narrow the focus on our words. The words that come from our mouths must honour God. It must certainly not detract from God’s value. Look, it’s really horrible when people use God’s Name as a stop word. My dad really didn’t like it and even wrote a poem about it describing how disturbing it was to go to Newlands to watch the cricket with the beautiful trees and mountains all around, and to hear the crowd calling out God’s name when the cricketers hit a six. With all the beer cans, empty or full, the mess, the litter all around, they call out God’s name. When a player is given out LBW, the crowd calls out his Name over the inswinger; they speak his Name behind the stand in the dirt and the stench. Is that God’s image, to be called out over beer cans and stench, he asked in the poem.
Make sure that God likes to hear what comes out of your mouth.
And sometimes we slip up and can’t help laughing out loud about it, like Linda’s story:
On a funnier note, I would like to tell you this true story.
My cousin and her little boy was on their way to the family holiday home in the Southern Cape. She asked her son to send his grandparents an SMS to find out when they were leaving for the holiday home. He did it and when the response came back, she asked him to read it to her.
He read that his grandfather had said that they were leaving “donners vroeg” the next morning.
She was really surprised, because her dad NEVER swore. She asked her son to read exactly what was said in the SMS.
He read: “We are leaving tomorrow morning DV.”
What do your words look like?
Do you have to make a few changes?
How will you do it?
Father, please help us to choose our words so as not to offend anyone. Amen.