samedi 14 août 2004

Filthy language

I finished Colossians last month and came across this verse:

"But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."
- Colossians 3:8

Not to single one thing out (well, I guess I'm doing that anyways) but I used to skim over the filthy language part. The others are all things that I try to keep out of my life, but filthy language is something I don't focus on too much. I very rarely swear and when I do, the worst I say is probably "crap" but I notice that other Christians are comfortable using any number of extremities.

I'm not going to write about that. Sarah has already written two excellent posts about the matter of Christians cussing. Instead, I'll talk about the range of filthy language. I used to take it as meaning specific words, none of which will be listed here of course, but I admit that when I first became a Christian, I used those words as a measuring stick of my 'religiosity'. I would look at myself and think I was better than so-and-so because I didn't use a word that they used. That was wrong.

(Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
- Matthew 7:1-5)

Thankfully, I've seen that filthy language extends to much more. It's not limited to a few branded words - it encompasses all words that are hurtful to others and any type of language that could be offensive to the listener (such as surly, sarcastic or rude). Filthy language could be a joke I tell that makes someone uncomfortable. It could be a remark that belittles someone. All of these things are to be rid from my lips. It's not enough that I keep from swearing, if I want my speech to be God-honouring, I need to carefully choose the words that come from my mouth. Having laryngitis certainly helped with that process but I have such a long way to go. I am still very sarcastic and I find myself cutting people down with a mere sentence every so often. I need to "put on the new self" everyday and hold my tongue a lot more often. The fact that I preached a sermon on "Taming the Tongue" certainly convicts me!

Here is what a commentary on this chapter says:

James reminds us that the real issue at stake when people talk with each other is not so much the verbal transmission of ideas, but how those ideas affect human relationships for good or ill (Jas 3:1-18). Thus, if our speech is informed by heavenly Wisdom and thus characterized by purity (Jas 3:17), then relationships are put at peace and the community can await God's "harvest of righteousness" (Jas 3:18). If, on the other hand, our speech is informed by earthly wisdom and is thus "of the devil" (Jas 3:15), then relationships are destroyed by "bitter envy and selfish ambition" (Jas 3:14) and the community finds "disorder and every evil practice" within itself (Jas 3:16), thus imperiling its entrance into a future shalom (Jas 3:2; 1:4).
- IVP New Testament Commentaries

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