Wednesday, January 21, 2009

So Monday I was wrestling with the idea of swearing. I like those gray areas in life and many of my discussions in my young adult class deal with them. Is it right for a Christian to get a tattoo? Things of that nature. As I wrestled with it I began to try and build up different sides to the argument, since I like to play devil's advocate in my class to generate more discussion. This morning I read Jon's blog, Stuff Christians Like and it dealt with the same subject. Then tonight in class we ended up talking about this. It wasn't part of our topic. We finished the book of Revelation and it came up. Some others discussed it and I was like, "wow I've been all over this the past couple days." So I am listening and moving forward with this one even though it looks like I'm just copying Jon.

It occurred to me that a cuss word does not have any inherent power. We assign it the value we feel it deserves. This is why many use the words like punctuation and place holders in their speech. Often words change meanings to that what was acceptable becomes improper. I have a few King James Versions of the Bible. In those Bibles they refer to a donkey with the word ass. This was a perfectly acceptable word and was not profane at all. I can validate this with the fact that it was in the Bible and by definition it cannot be profane in if it is in the Bible. If you didn't get that you need a dictionary. It was not too long ago that the word bitch was the proper term for a female dog and was only used in that context. It is still the proper term for a female dog, much as doe is the proper term for a female deer, but I imagine quite a few Christians had a couple heart flutters when they saw I had written the word even though I was using proper terminology and context.

If these words have no power then why is there a problem with saying or writing them?

Well that is because you took what I said out of context. I didn't say the words had no power, I said the words have only the power we give to them. The discussion over on Jon's blog chastised me because I had begun to believe my own argument until I read a couple of the comments there. The biggest problem with swearing is what it does to the people around us. We are a light on a hill but when we cover ourselves in the things of the world we cannot be seen. We are the salt of the Earth, but when we mix ourselves with impurities we lose our saltiness and must be tossed out into the streets. When we are not distinctly different from the world, then we offer nothing to the world. We should be striving to rise to a higher standard, even if that standard is something not absolutely required by God.

If I were to let lose a string of expletives around a group of carpenters that swear every other word because I hit my thumb with a hammer they would take note. It is nothing for the rest of them to do it, but if they know I am a Christian and I don't normally talk like that they notice those things, and I will have begun to hurt my witness with them. If I join in with the crude jokes s I can fit in then I hurt it yet again. If I go get a tattoo so they will think I'm cool and start smoking or whatever ... you get the picture.

I think we tend to ask the wrong question. We ask "is it OK to cuss?" This is just another way of saying "how close can I get to the world without being part of the world?" I think the real question we need to ask is, "How close can I get to God before I leave this world?"

10 comments:

Max02 said...

I've struggled with cussing before and know some people around me now who are going through the same thing.

I completely agree with you. Everything is in context. Sometimes I think it's funny to throw in a word like that, in the proper context, with some of my friends. But does that make it better? I think, even in the proper contexts, people still automatically take these words to a place they weren't designed to be in the first place.

I don't want to compromise myself or my example just so I can better fit in with the people around me.

That being said, I still want a tattoo.

Nick the Geek said...

Max02,

Honestly wanting a tattoo is one of my biggest struggles. I can't explain it but I want one and I honestly believe that there is no inherent wrong in the tattoo, but I also come back to the idea over and over that I can think of many people that would reject the gospel I preach if I had a tattoo but I can't think of any that would reject me if I don't.

I hate that I have to conform to some standard that I don't believe exists because other people do believe it exists. Sort of a reverse legalism thing since we are talking about people outside the law placing the standard on people under grace.

Ryan B said...

I have struggled with cussing in the past but just last year cut it out entirely. Now I only use Christian Cuss Words (Check my blog if you wanna know what I mean).

And about the tats, what is wrong with them? The Jr. High pastor at my church back home has a big cross on his forearm that looks really cool. I have been on a mission trip to New Orleans with him and it has always been a good way of bringing up conversation and sharing.

Why not get a tattoo? Because of one Bible verse in the Old Testament that says "Do not cut your body for the dead, and do not mark your body with tattoos. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:28)? That verse has been completely taken out of context. This verse and the ones around it are about pagan rituals. (Do a bit of research and you will see) Verse 26 says "Do not eat meat that has not been completely drained of its blood" and 27 says "Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards." I don't know anybody who only eats kosher and never gets their hair cut.

Jesus has a tattoo as well. Revelation 19:16: "On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" If the king of the world and our God has a tattoo I'm pretty sure it is OK to have one as well.

I don't understand how people would reject the gospel if you had a tattoo. Rejection of the gospel is on them, not on you.

If you want a tattoo, have justified reasons for getting it, will be OK with having the thing on your body for the rest of your life, and can glorify God through it, then get one. But if you don't, don't let it be because of Biblical reasons because there are none.

Nick the Geek said...

Ryan B,

Actually my reasons have nothing to do with one verse in the OT which is taken out of context. It has everything to do with being able to share the gospel with the most people.

If someone rejects the gospel because I justified getting a tattoo when I knew it could result in such an event then it is not on them it is on me.

I understand that many people do get tattoos as Christians and I do not judge them in that. I honestly don't find it to be something that is wrong, just wrong for me. It is wrong for me because the world is watching me and I figure I am called to be light and salt. Like I said, the question isn't what I am allowed to do before I fall into sin, but rather how close I can get to God?

Nick the Geek said...

Ryan B,

Actually my reasons have nothing to do with one verse in the OT which is taken out of context. It has everything to do with being able to share the gospel with the most people.

If someone rejects the gospel because I justified getting a tattoo when I knew it could result in such an event then it is not on them it is on me.

I understand that many people do get tattoos as Christians and I do not judge them in that. I honestly don't find it to be something that is wrong, just wrong for me. It is wrong for me because the world is watching me and I figure I am called to be light and salt. Like I said, the question isn't what I am allowed to do before I fall into sin, but rather how close I can get to God?

bman said...

I do admire what you're trying to say about the swearing, but the tattoo thing seems a bit far fetched.

Swearing is "wrong" and most people will agree that it's "wrong." Whether or not they drop the f-bomb every two seconds or not, they'll admit that it's a swear word. People just either care, or don't. I, for one, couldn't care less about swearing, but I know it bothers some people, so I have varying filters.

Tattoos on the other hand... I don't know. I just don't find anything wrong with them, at all. The only people that you're going to have an "issue" with is is maybe an old lady that's never been outside. Tattoos are awesome. Now, I will say that the amount of tattoos you visibly have may affect someone. But, to get a tattoo, I wouldn't worry about affecting your ministry. My grandfather has a tattoo. My younger stepbrother has a tattoo. It's not even a generational thing.

I don't know. It's a personal thing, so, whatev. I don't even have a tattoo!

Nick the Geek said...

bman,

I agree there is nothing wrong with a tattoo. Then again I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with a "cuss word" either. Some are more base and vulgar than others but the real issue is what lies beneath the word. The sin we impart to the word so to speak.

This is different than a tattoo, which only has the potential sin of offending someone. An offense might not be that they find tattoos to be distasteful but rather that their own presuppositions are that Christians are forbidden from having them and so if I have one then I must be a hypocrite like all the rest.

I want one but not so much that it would be worth giving someone yet another reason to reject the Gospel.

Again I must be perfectly clear that I do not find any particular sin in the act but rather feel it is somewhere I should not go personally. If anyone wishes to get a tattoo and feels that I am stepping all over their dreams they need to rethink their decision. In the end if they still feel that way I don't see a problem with a little or a lot of ink as a person sees fit so long as it in not inherently vulgar.

bman said...

Who thinks that Christians shouldn't have tattoos?

Max02 said...

Nick,

I appreciate your struggle with getting a tattoo vs not getting a tattoo.

Let me just say that, since you are a Youth Pastor, I think your cool value would SKY ROCKET if you had a really cool tattoo. You have to remember your prime audience.

Nick the Geek said...

bman,

Mostly people who were raised in very strict Christian houses but who have left the church because of the overly strict and often hypocritical upbringing. I'm sure you can see how their preconceptions would affect them.

Max02,
Yes I think getting a tattoo would drive me cool factor much higher. My motorcycle certainly helps. The downside is the number of parents that have asked me to teach the kids why tattoos and piercings are wrong. I don't agree that they are wrong but I have taught on why we should obey our parents even in things such as that. It might not be wrong but if they have forbidden it then it becomes wrong because it would be disobedience. The ink would make that more precarious than it already is.

Of course the other side to the argument is that I don't want to get some tattoo just like everyone else. I want something freakin' awesome which also means something quite expensive That can be a deterrent in itself.

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