Archive for April, 2014

“Redeeming” the F-Word

April 9, 2014

I imagine a day, in the not too distant future, in which Christians will be talking about how the F-word can be used for the glory of God. The arguments will proceed along these lines:

1) Everyone will be reminded that the F-word is just a word, a neutral utterance, beginning with the fricative f, followed by the short u, and ending with the voiceless velar k. We’ll be told that this same combination of sounds is used in other languages, such as vak in Afrikaans (meaning “subject”), proving that there is nothing inherently evil in the sound of the word.

2) We’ll then be told that times have changed. When Rhett Butler uttered his “Frankly, my dear” line in Gone With the Wind (1939), it barely slipped through the censor’s net. Today, the same word is free-floated around family sitcoms. Movies with the F-word barely get a 13 rating. The culture is no longer shocked by it, it has entered common usage. “WTF” is now a common abbreviation on the web. What’s the big deal?, we’ll be asked. Let’s move on folks, and stop getting all freaked out by what is so yesterday.

3) Along those lines, we’ll be informed that reaching a neighbour who swears will require using the F-word in conversation. Such people use the F-word as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, and as an interjection. With such a common use of the word, we won’t be able to effectively reach a man embedded in the F-word lifestyle, unless we meet him where he is. Contextualisation and missional living requires that we lay aside our preferences of not using the F-word, and begin to use it for the sake of the Gospel. After all, didn’t Jesus eat and drink with sinners? And didn’t Paul become all things to all men?

4) We’ll then be told that Christians who don’t use the F-word ought not to judge those who do. Romans 14 will be enlisted as the proof text: one man regards the F-word as unclean, another man regards it as clean, so let each man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Most importantly though, those objecting to the F-word should realise that such harsh, judgemental attitudes are more like the Pharisees than like Christ. At least the F-word Christians give liberty to the other side to not use the F-word. Why can’t the objectors exercise the same grace?

5) We’ll be informed that the F-word is a matter of vocabulary preference. Some prefer to use it, some don’t. There is no sin in it either way. The problem comes when people allow their preferences in vocabulary to get in the way of gospel-work. F-word usage is a peripheral issue, merely a style of language, and not a hill to die on.

6) F-word advocates will demand that their critics find a Scripture that forbids the F-word. When confronted with Ephesians 4:29, they’ll point out that what makes communication corrupt or filthy is its intention. If someone intends to use the F-word for sin, then it is filthy, but if it is used for the glory of God, then that neutral word is being redeemed. To the pure all things are pure, you see.

7) Then, the enormous good being done by Christians that are redeeming the F-word will be pointed to. We’ll hear testimonies of people who didn’t give the Christian message a second glance until they heard an F-word preacher or evangelist, who seemed to make it all so real and authentic. Conversion stories and accounts of great inroads into foul-mouthed communities (which will by then be a passé term) will show that God is using Christian cursers for His glory. To such evidence, those objecting will be seen as cultural outsiders, pharisees, closed-minded bigots with no heart for the lost, no ministry-zeal, and no love for people.

8) Public evangelical figures will be quick to endorse the F-word users, and while making it clear that they don’t necessarily use it themselves, they will state that they are so happy for those who do so for the glory of God. And they will make sure they distance themselves from those closed-minded bigots who judge negatively these tremendous ministries.

Behold, the time cometh, and now is.

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