Have you ever seen the classic Christmas film Home Alone? (Yes, it’s a classic.) I hope the answer is yes because that film should be a staple for every family’s movie viewing during the holidays. I mean, it’s a little kid getting the better of two middle aged, bumbling crooks, while also beating the living crap out of them. What’s not to love?
The best part of Home Alone isn’t Kevin McCallister bludgeoning Harry and Marv into painful oblivion (although that never gets old, let’s be honest). It’s the fact that Joe Pesci—he of classic foul-mouthed films such as Goodfellas, Casino, and Raging Bull, etc.—couldn’t use the language he normally would because he was in a “family” film. According to the story, the director got him to quit cussing on camera by asking him (nicely, I assume) to say “fridge” instead of the other f-word. That, coupled with random strings of consonants bunched together as filler, left the once imposing bad guy spouting nothing but mouthfuls of gibberish as he’s beaten, bloodied, and set on fire. It’s hilarious.
And although I’d like to say I keep my language in restraints like ol’ Harry did, with meaningless gibberish taking the place of more colorful words, the truth is that from time to time, I let a word or two slip that I would not want my grandmother hearing. It’s usually not a conscious decision to do so (okay, sometimes it is…), but nevertheless, in those fleeting moments of private frustration, I become a cussing Christian.
Now, as someone who was raised in the Church, I’ve been taught and deeply believe that each person is responsible for deciding which convictions they will abide by in their life. The way the Bible is interpreted is relative to the individual (hence many, many different religions and sects of Christianity), so it’s possible—and highly likely—that you and I may not agree on what does or does not constitute a sin. From my experience, the use of modern day curse words is one such subject.
In today’s post-modern cultural of Christianity, some maintain that even though they are designated to be “bad” by man and not God, certain words shouldn’t be uttered. And then there are those that believe because God’s law and opinion supersede that of man, the use of curse words is not a direct conflict to their Christianity. Each side makes plenty of valid points in their argument, yet maybe the subject of “cussing” isn’t a matter of right or wrong, sin or no sin, but rather a matter of discipleship.
It wouldn’t take much for me to throw scriptures forward about how we are to be “in” this world but not “of” it. It’s the ready-made defense for those who wish to explain why they do and do not do things. But the truth remains that as Christians, we are called—and even commanded—to exude the change we’ve taken on once the cloak of salvation covers us. In the most rudimentary of explanations, we are to behave as Christ did—we are to be Christ-like. And while it’s true that He hung out with a crowd of less-than-desirable characters, I can’t see Jesus Christ using epithets to get a point across to His disciples or a crowd of believers. It’s within that inherent desire to be more like Him where we should be able to discover whether our actions affect our everyday ministry or not. Is our Christian message discounted when a non-believer hears us using the same type of language they do? How are we being “different” (read: Christ-like) if parts of our behavior are no different than those of someone who doesn’t subscribe to the teachings of Christ?
As we develop in our walk with God, whether as a new convert or someone who’s been a Christian all their life, He is constantly molding and shaping us into what will best suit His plan for our life. It’s a necessary and welcomed change from what we used to be. And during this change, the old parts of our life tend to fall away, making way for the grace and forgiveness He affords us.
Yet, with Christianity’s still-not-quite-cool-enough reputation in today’s mainstream culture—and there’s no denying this to be true—it’s likely some of us make a subconscious decision to keep using a more “worldly” vocabulary as a means of simply staying relevant. Whether it’s the individual wanting to fit in with a crowd or a creative type (blogger, musician, preacher, teacher, etc.) wanting to reach a bigger chunk of the population so that they may cultivate a larger audience, a need to be accepted exists. Perhaps the result of that desire is our showing we’re not part of the Christian reputation by being more accessible to the non-believer. I suppose it can be considered a method or technique of reaching the lost, but then again, how are we showing the difference God has made in our life if there’s no actual difference to show?
Maybe cussing really isn’t that big of a deal. It certainly doesn’t top most “DO NOT DO” lists; actions speak far louder than words, after all. But doesn’t it make sense that if we’re to be examples of God’s ability to not only redeem but also thoroughly change, we should conduct ourselves as such? I think so.