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Vulgar Language

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  ASK THE PASTOR BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     Question:  “Is it sinful for Christians to use vulgar language?”

     Answer: I want to avoid being legalistic on one side of this issue, and also avoid being libertine on the other side. On the one hand, I've always been amazed by Christians that will use God's name in flippant and irreverent ways, breaking one of the ten commandments, and then react with shock and disgust when someone utters a crude word. In the halls of divine justice, saying a phrase like “Oh, God!” to express dismay and disgust is a far, far more grievous offense of God’s law than the dropping of the infamous “F-bomb” in a sentence. I'm always fascinated by how words evolve into vulgarity, why some words are considered so rebellious (or how some words, like "sucks," evolve from vulgarity into normal usage). The whole thing seems silly to me, as does the need that so many people have to insert one of these “shock-effect” words in the place of every adjective and adverb that they need in a sentence.

     At the same time, I think that we should be careful about the standards for the language that we use. Paul, in Ephesians 5:1-4, addresses this subject directly: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children...But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” What is “obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking?” Even in Greek these terms are vague. Obviously, the definition of those terms will vary from culture to culture and age to age, just as the definition of “modesty.” However, vagueness doesn't vacate the words of any meaning. They do apply to some portion of our English language. So, what portion is it?

     I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where the use of vulgar language is condoned. In Philippians 3:8 Paul uses the word translated as “dung” or “rubbish” (literally...“what is thrown to the dogs”), but there's no evidence that the term that he used was considered “dirty” or “vulgar” in his culture. It was a colorful, valid, and socially acceptable synonym for “worthless.”

     But, to some people’s surprise, the Bible doesn’t give a list of seven or ten “dirty” words that we are to avoid. Words that describe body parts, bodily functions, or sexual behavior aren’t inherently dirty or obscene. God created all of those things and declared them good. The sin lies in the intent behind the words. Our culture creates dirty words by debasing and demeaning these good things that God made.

     It seems to me that we as Christians are expected to be sensitive to the language of our culture and be aware of what is considered dirty, raunchy, and obscene by our peers, and then avoid the use of it, for the sake of our holiness and witness to Christ. Earlier in Ephesians 4, Paul says, "Do not let any unwholesome [corrupt, worthless] 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." To me, vulgar words all seem to be about projecting an image and having a self-centered purpose. I can't see another person's heart, but I have to be honest – almost every time I hear a Christian use foul language it appears to me that there's an element of rebelliousness to it, or they're just trying to impress me or someone else with how “cool” they are. I can’t ever remember hearing a vulgar word used for the purpose of building another person up according to their need.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

Urgent or Important

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     Do you know what one of my favorite days of the year is? It's that day in the fall when we get to turn our clocks back one hour due to the change from Daylight Saving Time. Depending on your tendencies, it gives that annual gift of an extra hour to either sleep or stay awake. Since fall, with the end of the vacation season and the beginning of the school year, is one of the most hectic times of the year, that extra hour always seems bigger than it really is.

     To be honest, that extra hour has never really made any significant difference in my life. But what if we could add an hour to every day? Or, better yet, what if we could add four or five hours to every day? Would our lives be more productive or more relaxed if we had 20% more time in a day? Maybe, but the likelihood is that we would still be as stressed out and frustrated by our schedules as we are now. Just as your living expenses always manage to rise to meet your income, so your "time sinks" and responsibilities always seem to expand to fill your Day-Timer. So, if more hours in a day isn't the answer, then what is? Is there any way out of these stress-filled lifestyles?

     Let's stop and analyze this statement: "There are not enough hours in the day..." If that's really the case, then who should we blame for our frustration and anxiety? The only answer could be God since He's the one who created our days and who numbers our years. But we can't blame God - He has given us the perfect amount of time to do all that He's asked us to do. Well, then what's the alternative? It can only be that we are spending our time on a lot of things that He hasn't asked us to do!

     Many years ago Charles Hummel wrote, "Several years ago an experienced cotton-mill manager said to me, 'Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.' We live in the constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week. Extra hours of prayer and Bible study, a visit with that non-Christian friend, careful study of an important book: these projects can wait. But the urgent tasks call for instant action - endless demands pressure every hour and day." It all comes down to priorities, and it takes wisdom from above to be able to say "yes" to the things that God asks us to do with our time and to say "no" to those things (some of them very good things) that He hasn't asked us to do.

     The key to discerning between the urgent and the important is in creating what I call "holy spaces" in your life. These are the times that God has commanded you to have, where you truly rest - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And these are the times where you enter into life's most crucial activity - "waiting on the Lord." It is through being quiet before Him, reading His Word, and praying to Him that you get your direction from God about what is really important in your schedule. You must have "holy space" every day and you need the "holy day" (the Lord's Day) every week in order to re-align your priorities and to receive your marching orders. If you squeeze those holy spaces out of your life then you can expect to wander astray from God's will and to get stressed out in the process.

     Jesus said to the Father near the end of His earthly ministry, "I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do." Could you end any day of your life by confidently asserting to God, "I have completed everything You gave me to do today?" How much less could any of us say that about our entire lives?! The difference is that Jesus knew what He was called to do, the difference between the urgent and the important. And here lies the key to deliverance from our frazzled lifestyles.

     "The length of our days is seventy years - or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away...Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  Psalm 90:10, 12

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