Christians are a strange breed. We won’t watch Paranormal Activity (it’s evil, run for your lives!) but Kill Bill is fine (what’s a bit of murder between friends?). You won’t find us browsing the top shelf at the newsagents, but we’ll download 50 Shades on our Kindle. Drugs? Big no-no. Three pints, five shots and a Jagerbomb? All in a night’s work. We’re virgins until we marry, because we don’t count all the heavy petting as ‘sex’. We go on about words having power, but some of us have no qualms about dropping the F-bomb in casual conversation.
Hypocrisy is nothing new. Jesus died to save hypocrites, and I’m one of them. But our standards are so grey, it’s little wonder the world is getting whiplash watching us go back and forth between our piety and our reality.
What makes it worse is that we have the audacity – perhaps the recklessness – to start quoting 1 Corinthians – “Everything is permissible…” – by way of justification. Interpretations of the next line – “but not everything is beneficial” – are apparently still wide open for debate. How do you define beneficial, anyway? If it feels good; if it’s the only appropriate response to a situation; if it doesn’t damage anyone in close vicinity; if it doesn’t set our conscience off – well then it’s fair game, right?
Let’s take the least controversial of the examples above; swearing. Acres of internet space are dedicated to debating whether or not it’s ok to swear if you’re a Christian. At the time of writing, I’m yet to find a definitive answer on the point. What I can find, though – easily – are a lot of 20-something Christians who have no problem with swearing like troopers. And a couple of preachers who take no issue with it either. I’m a Christian, and it confuses me. I can only imagine what my non-Christian mates must think.
From personal experience, I reckon swearing is borne out of one of three things:
I know that if I ever swear, it’ll most often come from my ego. I love words; I’m always looking for clever ways to say, blog and tweet stuff. Occasionally I’m tempted to stick a swear word in there because it’ll sound funny. I briefly imagine it being re-tweeted around the internet because the sheer hilarity will make people go: ‘Ha! She’s so humorous and witty and smart!’ And then I realise – I’m self-glorifying. Backspace backspace. Cancel. Don’t save as draft.
We have choices. We can wear our rage, pride or lack of self-control across our foreheads or we can honestly challenge ourselves about our motives. One thing I reckon everyone would be thankful for, though, is some consistency. Do our words have power, or is that just when we need to put our ‘prayer warrior’ hat on? In a grey situation we can choose to be black or white, and be informed in that choice. Plodding along in the murky in-between only makes us look strange and irrelevant.
What do you think? Can swearing ever be positive and beneficial? Do you think God cares about whether we swear?