WHAT YOUR TALK SAYS ABOUT YOU
Dr. Alan C. Clifford, England
"MIND YOUR LANGUAGE!"
WE live in an age of irreverence. Is anything not turned into a joke and ridiculed? When vulgarity and ignorance abound. what is sacred is devalued and decried. This is especially so where speech is concerned.
Whereas filthy 'four-letter' vulgarity reflects ignorance and bad taste in ordinary conversation, swearing and blasphemy indicate enmity against God.
This evil tendency is highlighted in the Holy Bible in the Third of the Ten Commandments:
'You shall not take the name of the lord your God in vain, for the lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain' (Exodus 20:7).
What's In a Word?
Words are more than mere sounds. Together with actions, they express our inner thoughts and feelings, attitudes and dispositions. As bad grammar and vocabulary suggest ignorance, so blasphemy and swearing reveal rebellion towards God. The word reveals the heart.
Love and Lip
As we speak respectfully of those we love, so God should be spoken of with reverence and majesty. It is common to speak well of friends and badly of enemies. Thus we indicate what is valuable or valueless in our estimation. Thus, 'to take God's name in vain' reveals that God means nothing to us.
Why Christian Blasphemy?
It is remarkable that swearing usually violates the sacred names of Christianity: 'O my God!', 'Good Lord!' and 'Jesus Christ!' are common. Why is swearing confined to these? In the increasingly multifaith west, we don't hear 'O Buddha!', 'Good Vishnu!' or 'Mohammed!' Sometimes, 'Good Lor!' (from 'Good Lord'), 'Gorblimey!' (derived from 'God blind me') and 'Crikey!' (derived from 'Christ kill me') are seen as less irreverent substitutes.
It is not uncommon for bishops and other clergy to use these expressions in an attempt to be 'trendy'. During the 1960s, John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich attempted to update our understanding of God with a heterodox book entitled Honest to God. An orthodox reply was called For Christ's Sake. Pleas for social action by clergymen have often included such expressions borrowed from the language of irreverence and blasphemy.
Words that Condemn
The fact remains that an evil tongue reveals an evil heart. Filthy talk reveals filthy thoughts. Swearing is a symptom of a spiritual disease. Let us see how the Bible uses the tongue to diagnose our true state:
1.The Lord Jesus Christ compares our nature and inclination to a hissing snake!
'Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things' (Matthew12: 34).
2. Quoting from Psalms 5:9;140:3 and 10:7, the Apostle Paul exposes human sin similarly:
'Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practised deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness' (Romans 3:13-14).
3. The Apostle James doesn't waste words exposing religious hypocrisy:
'But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so' (James.3: 8-10).
Notice how the snake or serpent is invoked in every case. Satan assumed this form in the garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:1-15). Human nature is infected with his poison. Thus to blaspheme and swear is to side with God's enemy. Hence Christ could say,
"You are of your father the devil...there is no truth in him...he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8: 44).
Since the ultimate falsehood is to blaspheme God's holy name, it is no wonder that human guilt is specifically measured in these terms in the third commandment. A godless tongue, reflecting a godless heart, is the source of atheism and all utterances against the being, majesty, holiness and goodness of God. Even to speak of other deities and prophets in language applicable only to God in Christ is to take His holy name in vain!
Words that Justify
Since sins of the tongue define our guilt so specifically, our need of salvation is sharply focused. AChristian is one whose heart has been purified by faith (see Acts 15: 9).
When the Holy Spirit brings us to repentance and faith in Christ, a change of speech reflects a change of heart:
'for if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you wlll be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation' (Romans 10:9-10)
Confessing Christ as Lord and Saviour is thus the way we are acquitted from guilt. Sinful words of unbelief are cancelled out by righteous words of faith:
'But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgement. 'For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned' (Matthew12:36-37)
Christ our Advocate
Cleansing from sin and truthful speech are linked by the Apostle John (see 1 John 1: 5-10). However, every Christian knows that believing hearts are far from perfect (see Matthew 26: 74). Hence we must pray with David,
'Unite my heart to fear your name' (Psalm 86: 11)
Our hearts struggle with falsehood still. like an ongoing civil war within (see Paul's experience in Romans 7:13-25)
Hence the Apostle John describes Christ as our 'advocate': he speaks with perfect righteousness and judgement before God on our behalf (see 1 John.2: 2) Thank God for the Lord Jesus
'who committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth' (lsaiah 53: 9; 1 Peter 2: 22)
Those who speak for Christ may be sure that Christ speaks for them. Those who love his name are beloved of him. Those who hate to take his name in vain will never trust him in vain!
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