Is it ever ok for Christians to swear? By swear, I mean curse, or to use what we refer to as “cuss words.” This is not an easy question to answer, and I don’t have any delusions of grandeur in thinking that this brief article will put the debate to rest. I want to simply give my opinion, based on my reading and interpretation of the Bible.
One of the reasons that this has been on my mind, has been the increasing popularity of Christian musicians/artists/worship leaders to use cursing in their lyrics. The popular worship band, Hillsong, has a song titled “Even When It Hurts” that has the lyric, “even when it hurts like hell, I’ll praise you.” Granted, that would be considered by most a very mild form of swearing, and many would argue that it is fitting because we talk about Hell all the time as believers (or at least we should). But in the context, that word is not referring to Hell as the destination of those who have rejected Christ and where they will spend eternity in torment. It is being used as a modern-day swear word.
Another example, and a much more explicit one, mind you, comes from the band Kings Kaleidoscope. Kings Kaleidoscope began as a worship band at a Mars Hill Church plant on the campus of The University of Washington and is known for their eclectic sound and menagerie of instruments, but has lately garnered attention for their song, “A Prayer” in which they use the “F-word” multiple times. It should also be noted that the founder of Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll, is infamously known as “the cussing preacher.”
As I have read several articles that both defend and rebuke the idea that Christians should be allowed to cuss, it seems as if this issue is almost as divisive as worship music style or whether or not Christians should drink alcohol. My point in writing this is not to cause division, but simply to generate some thought as I give my opinion on this matter.
My opinion is based off of two Bible verses. One of those verses is NOT Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.” It's not that I don't think you can use that verse to defend the argument that Christians shouldn't swear, but I don't want to open the argument of what is considered “corrupting” or “unwholesome” talk. There are many who would argue that the words that we consider “swear” words are only considered unwholesome because man, at one point, deemed them unwholesome and are not condemned by scripture as “bad” words. I don't think that this is a valid argument but I believe that there is a better argument to be made using other verses.
The first verse I want to use to defend my opinion that Christians shouldn't swear is Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” As Christians, we are to not conform to the patterns of this world. We are to be different than the world. When unbelievers hear Christians use words that they know are considered “bad” words, they are being given the impression that Christians and non-Christians can look and behave the same way. This nullifies the command from Scripture that Christians are to be “set apart.”
The second verse I want to use is 1 Thessalonians 5:22, which the King James translates as “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Even if we feel that it was wrong to label certain words as “cussing” and that it is legalistic to impose restrictions on using those words, we have to acknowledge that the majority of our world considers certain words to be “bad” and if we are to abstain from every appearance of evil, then we should make every effort to distance ourselves from worldly behavior.
So as the temptation to swear arises, our thoughts should center on what picture we are painting of our relationship with Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Do our actions, and our speech, reflect that there is something different within us, than those who do not know Christ as Savior?
Soli deo gloria