There is much discussion in the Christian world about liberty. This post is not concerned with civil liberties as such. The question is not whether society should, on the one hand, allow recreational drugs or prostitution or some other “victimless crime.” Neither is it investigating whether society should, on the other hand, mandate the use of masks or vaccinations. Perhaps another day. Rather it is dealing with the Christian’s liberty that is found in Christ.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (ESV).
One of the debates within Christian circles is to what extent our behavior is not restricted under Christ. There is a false defense of Christian liberty that claims a Christian is free to express himself according to his own desires, because Christ has paid for sin. That, of course is a gross generalization of a position people take. But it is a position that I have heard articulated and as expressed it is a mind-boggling denial of God’s wrath against sin and His hatred of it. God views sin with such anger that He sent His Son to die a horrific death on a cross to satisfy the guilt for the same. One of the areas where “trendy” Christians are seeking to carve out ungodly liberty is in the use of profanity and cursing. Is there a place for such speech in the Christian?
Christian liberty does not make room for disobedience to God’s word. The Westminster Confession of Faith says this about Christian liberty:
“They who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (WCF, Chapter 20.3)
The purpose of liberty is to serve God, being set apart by His word to reflect Him as His adopted children. Therefore what does the Lord say about speech? In Colossians Paul exhorts the one who is raised with Christ to set their minds on the things above. That means putting on righteousness, and putting off what is earthly (Col. 3:5). Included in that putting off is the putting away of “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Col. 3:8). In another place Paul gives similar instructions when he charges the Christian to “let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29). Obscenity and corrupting talk are out of place for the Christian. The Bible plainly says so. If you begin arguing at this point that your profanity is not “obscene” or that you are using it to build others up, I can not help you. You are committed to your disobedience. The statements from Scripture could not be clearer. In this case, the desire for nuance can only be taken as a desire for license.
Are there times when Paul uses strong language in his letters? Some people would argue he does as a justification for their own speech. Even if you make that argument, you cannot argue that he does so habitually. Maybe one or two places in all his written words can be used as potential examples (“rubbish” Phil. 3:8 or “emasculate” in Gal. 5:12). Moreover, the words he uses are hardly the same as the adoption of the vulgar and crude language of society which resorts to the crassest expressions of bodily functions and sexual activity. Brothers and sisters, these things should not even be named among us (Eph. 5:11-12). Yes, it is true that Christ has come and fulfilled all the law for the Christian. And, yes, it is true that all the sins of all God’s people are forgiven in Christ. But Christ work on the cross in no way diminishes the holiness of God. It in no way reduces the call to be holy and He is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). It in no way permits a despising of Christ’s sacrifice by engaging in the wickedness of the world.
Here is the sad thing. Even the world knows that certain language should not be used in the presence of children. We have an organization that ensures language for movies is rated, and that words are edited out of TV shows. There is, even in the world, an acknowledgement that these words are inappropriate. How is it that the Christian who has the Spirit and the Word of God would so badly miss this point?