Can You Cuss & Still Love Jesus?

Erik Cooper —  October 20, 2011 — 16 Comments

July 1988.

Alright, here’s the situation. A major movie studio has approached you about a high-paying, starring role in a new blockbuster motion picture. The only catch? You have to cuss. A lot. Would you do it?

When you’re 14, summer vacation conversations are full of meaningless, what-if fantasies.

Not me. I wouldn’t. No way.

In that moment, I became a giant of the faith (right next to Moses, Paul, and Carman). The speculation of turning down fame and fortune to take a stand against the evils of swear words undoubtedly elevated me to mega-Christian status. And to find the courage to publicly proclaim it in front of a couple of my non-christian buddies nearly got me a direct ticket to heaven in an Elijah-style chariot of fire.

No doubt, God loved me extra that day.

By my freshman year in high school, I had this Jesus thing figured out:

  • Avoid speaking (or writing) certain 4 letter combinations.
  • Stay far away from cigarettes (although when we heard Rich Mullins smoked cigars we were very confused).
  • Courageously wear variations of your famous “witness-wear” t-shirts to public school at least twice a week.
  • Never let a drop of alcohol cross your lips (we made carefully monitored exceptions for NyQuil during cold season).
  • Tearfully burn any rock-n-roll cassette tapes you deviously collected at least once per calendar year.
  • Never attend a rated R movie (Except Braveheart. Braveheart’s cool).

This is what it means to be a Christian.

(Honestly, that list isn’t as tongue-and-cheek as I made it sound).

I’m certainly not celebrating raunchy films, nicotine, or alcohol abuse. You have to wrestle your own conscience on these issues. But I will suggest that following Jesus, embracing Christ, allowing His life to come alive inside of you, will cause you to care about bigger things than foul language. And the things He’ll ask you to lay down will probably cost a lot more than your secular music collection.

(Like your obsession with your self).

Jesus opens you to God’s heart, his passion for people, the poor, reconciliation, repentance, truth, relationships, forgiveness, grace, love. Jesus doesn’t build a fortress of meaningless “don’ts” to separate us from the world. He asks us to courageously take His life out into it.

When you stand before God, I’m pretty certain He’s not going to present you with a list of the swear words you uttered. But He will ask how well you loved. How well you served. How well you sacrificed. How much you allowed His life to supersede your own.

I want to show Him I cared about things that really mattered.

16 responses to Can You Cuss & Still Love Jesus?

  1. Thanks for addressing this issue. You handled it well 🙂

    In answer to the question, the answer would be “yes, but why would you want to?”

    Thank you for your leadership.

  2. Don’t you think that how we behave (even in our language) would be one of those things that we should become concerned about? I mean if cussing is a moral failure, and Jesus wants us to act morally, then I’d say the concern with one’s own language is justified. If you’re saying that yes we should not cuss, but we should worry about more than that, well I’d agree completely. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. All aspects of our life should be scrutinized by us since the Holy Spirit will be convicting us of our all our sins.

    I’m not saying I’m a language saint by any stretch of the imagination. I sometimes let one slip. However, I am far better than when I was not following God as I should, and I am also more aware of not just my language, but all my immoral behavior. If that’s what you’re getting at, then I agree 100%. But if you’re implying that maybe cussing isn’t such a bad thing, please reconsider that opinion.

    God bless!

    • Jesus accused the Pharisees of meticulously straining out a gnats, and then swallowing camels. (Mat. 23:24). I think we, as Christians, can get obsessed with all the wrong things and completely miss the point. I know I’m guilty.

      Really appreciate your input.

  3. very, very thought provoking…i was just thinking about this the other day. i was reading an exchange on twitter between 2 well known kind of celebrity Christians…if you will. i had just followed them and then a whole exchange of bad language went back and forth. another guy..who was following said he was a new Christian and that he was not sure why they were using words/saying such things. one of the celebrity Christians re-tweeted his comment and called him a “hater”. really? i was so perplexed. while i agree that a slip up is not God’s biggest concern, i also don’t think the new trend in Christians letting the swear words roll is good, either. i don’t think i am relevant because i can put swear words into a sentence. i am relevant because of what i being to HIS kingdom…how my life can bring Him glory….i just am not sure i can see Jesus on twitter typing cuss words back and forth to the disciples and calling people haters that don’t agree…just saying.

    • Good thoughts Amy….I’m not trying to encourage Christians to take up swearing, just trying to put some of our evangelical obsessions into context. Coincidentally, I think your hubby may have been one of the guys I had that “swearing in the movies” conversation with all those years ago. (He won’t likely remember, but I do). 🙂

  4. Erik – I know that the point of this post is not swearing, it’s simply a metaphor. Nevertheless, I have found that many Christians swear, especially the newer ones.

    It seems to me, that swearing in many people’s lives, is a habit and/or is cultural, just a way of expressing oneself. I have to agree with bossmanham that the Holy Spirit is the One to do the convicting.

    I really liked Amy’s sentence: “i don’t think i am relevant because i can put swear words into a sentence. i am relevant because of what i bring to HIS kingdom…how my life can bring Him glory…”

  5. I used to cuss a lot as a new babe in Christ Then I read Eph 4:29-Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. then I memorized it and when I wanted to cuss I would say it vs cussing
    Changed my life.

  6. Great observation, Erik, and let me say you are CRAZY for touching this sacred cow. The belief (superstition?) that certain words referring to body parts or body functions or body by-products are somehow inherently evil is almost universal among church folks.

    The truth is that profanity is 100% cultural, and as with all other speech, its moral implications are 100% contextual. The bible naturally forbids curses (utterances signaling evil intentions or ill-will towards others) and it forbids vain reference to the name and person of God (trivializing, mocking, etc), and even forbids talking roughly or unkindly.

    I will up the ante a bit with this: I have been in a men’s bible study/fellowship group for about 10 years, and in Sunday school for 25. I cannot tell you how many times I hear men wring their hands about how the language in their workplace offends their righteous souls. Then they will add that they are a good witness for Jesus because “They know I don’t talk that way, and when they’re around me they clean it up.”

    Great. In effect their main proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is in how offended they are by the ordinary speech of their coworkers. Ironically it is their foul-mouthed colleagues who are demonstrating Christian virtue by accommodating them, not vis versa…

    It is horrifying to me how many of these nice fellows actually think that the expletives they refuse to say in some way leads others to eternal life in the kingdom of God.

    Newsflash: All those sinners you think are persecuting you just because they don’t share your vocabulary? They really don’t give a rat’s tail about what you don’t say, or where you don’t go, or what you do not drink, or what you will not watch. Jesus did not send us into the world to stamp out the F-word and six-packs. He sent us to preach the gospel, to make disciples, and to teach obedience to what HE commanded — not to what your third grade teacher commanded.

    Nice language is nice, but that’s all. But only the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.

    • “Jesus did not send us into the world to stamp out the F-word and six-packs.”

      Said as only you can say it, Joe. Thanks for the input, and for your ministry. Maybe some day we’ll actually talk in person.

  7. Oh good grief! You’re my new friend and you don’t even know it! I’m thankful that someone has started this dialogue.

    I’m writing a new blog series (should be posted mid-November) on my site, about “Your Own Personal Creed” (the title MAY become “Strong Opinions, Weak Minds”), and one of my best friends sent me the link to this article as a result.

    Thank you for starting this dialogue and for helping us to keep it all in perspective.

    I’m a new fan. I’ll be back!



Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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    […] aspects my conservative self-righteousness church culture. Defining true faith by an absence of swearing, abstaining from alcohol, (not chewing bubble gum), voting Republican, or never-wavering church […]

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