Recently, a pastor friend of mine texted me what he thought was a really funny joke.
Sometimes men call these “man jokes.” I consider them “dirty jokes.”
When I read my friend’s text I was appalled. To make matters worse, he texted the same joke to a female on staff at his church.
In recent years I’ve noticed a trend that has become way too common among men and women in spiritual leadership: rude and crass language, mixed with offensive humor usually centering on sex-related topics.
Dirty jokes, foul language, and even offensive video clips you wouldn’t dare show your mother or father, have become a regular practice behind office doors in many well-known churches here in the Chicagoland area. As one example, a neighbor attends a church where the pastor routinely swears in his sermons. In fact, the church is known more for its foul language than anything else. Imagine that!
It is startling to say the least. This juvenile behavior is exhibited by men and women who are supposed to be modeling holiness and Christlikeness. I don’t get it!
Make no mistake. I myself am not totally innocent. I have shared stories and said words for which I later needed to confess when the Holy Spirit chided me. At times I’ve circled back to apologize to those I had offended.
Yet I am calling on all my brothers and sisters in Christ – especially those of us who are leaders – to clean up our talk. God is not pleased with the way we talk when it causes others to blush or laugh at words God considers crass. He will hold us accountable for our speech.
Trust me, people listening to our words are right now wondering about duplicitous character that talks holy one moment and “talks street” the next. They are confused about who we really are.
Let’s clean up our act for the sake of holiness and godliness.
These words from Scripture are as straightforward as it gets:
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way live. Remember, He has identified you as His own.”
Go ahead. Call me prudish if you like.
But God knows every word that comes from our mouths. Others are watching and taking cues from our behavior as followers of Christ.
Foul and abusive language is not clever. It is not cute. It does not endear us to anyone.
We have been called to something better.
I’m reminded of a story. Alexander the Great couldn’t sleep one night during a military campaign, so he got up and walked around the camp. He came across a soldier who had fallen asleep on guard duty … an offense so serious an instant death penalty could be applied.
As Alexander approached, the waking soldier recognized him, and immediately feared for his life.
“Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” asked the general.
“Yes sir,” responded the soldier in shaky voice.
“Soldier, what is your name?”
The question was repeated, with emphasis. “WHAT is your name?”
“My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier meekly answered.
Looking the young man straight in the eye, Alexander the Great said, “Soldier, either change your conduct or change your name.”
So, friend, what is your name this day?
Would you say, “My name is Christian” or “My name is Christ follower”?
Perhaps God would say to us today, “Christian, Christ follower, either change your conduct or change your name.”
To those who have an ear, let the Word of God speak.