Limiting “Worldly” Vocabulary

It happened again. I was sitting with a group of believers, enjoying the fellowship, and it happened. Someone felt it was necessary and strangely appropriate to share a “funny story” that included vulgar language or references to vulgar topics. Uncomfortable faces dotted the circle as a few people looked at the floor, others smirked, and a few let slip some mostly stifled laughter.

I have been in many home fellowships, organized church groups, Christian conferences, and just about any other form of Christian gathering you can think of. In every setting, sooner or later, someone uses language he should not or brings up a topic that is better left untouched. I am not trying to be an extremist or self-righteous: there are a couple of carelessly used slang words that I am trying to purge from my own vocabulary. However, I am more willing to extend grace to the new believer than I am to the Christian who is “old enough to know better.” When the offending party is not a brand-new believer, but instead is a pastor, study leader, or other semi-mature believer, I cannot help but be saddened by the influence of the world on a Godly person.

I was appalled into a speechless stupor one night as two men whom I had (until this point) admired as dedicated Christians held a casual discussion on which obscenities had become mere slang terms in our culture and which ones they considered to still be true swear words. Not only did I consider this to be a completely inappropriate discussion, but it also was neither encouraging nor edifying to the other members of the Body of Christ who were present. To say I was offended by their behavior would be a gross understatement. I deeply regret being shocked beyond words — I wished that I (or anyone present) had had the fortitude to speak a word of rebuke.

As Christians, we are admonished not to conform to the world (Romans 12:2) and not to speak unwholesome words (Ephesians 4:29). Therefore, I was greatly encouraged by my own homeschool mentor who, years ago, told me that she had required her family to substitute less-offensive words for what she considered “worldly” terms: words for certain bodily functions, topics that should not be brought up in public gatherings, “mild” swear words — the things that many Christians say just because “everyone else” does.

I find this language among professing Christians to be not only offensive, but it also has the effect of bringing us down to the level of the world. We can effectively communicate without having to stoop to the level of the world — we do not have to use their vocabulary. We all should have learned by an early age that certain topics are best discussed in private or in the doctor’s office, and Jesus encouraged us to let our “yes” and “no” mean exactly that, so that we do not have to reinforce them with stronger words.

Our presence as representatives of Jesus in this world is to be as salt (either adding flavor or bringing healing) and light (vanquishing the darkness). Nowhere in scripture are we advised to lower ourselves to the standards of the world. However, we are urged to build up the Body of Christ and encourage each other in the faith (Hebrews 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). Our prudent choice of words will help.

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