Our public discourse is hoarse with coarse talkOctober 26, 2018
Today’s public language and cultural rhetoric is demonstrably coarse. It’s no way for people of good character to speak to one another and yet we hear coarse speech throughout the public discourse.
Coarse talk bears witness to a coarse walk.
Ephesians 4 makes clear that those who are seeking to live lives worthy of the calling of Christ, which means in part, those who self-identify as Christians, are characterized by humility, gracious speech, forbearance and peace. Who is leading in these ways in the cultural conversations of our day? Follow them.
If we read on, we find this verse in Ephesians 5:4.
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
This verse appears in the context of instruction about sexual purity. Think for a moment about the depth and breadth of pornification in a culture that is even having public debates about whether or not sex-robot brothels can open as businesses in the city of Houston. If purity is the standard pleasing to God, we are far from it.
Ephesians 4:29-30 provides clear instruction for the conversations of the day:
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.
So, how do we rid our own language of that which is foul or corrupting? Through what Thomas Chalmers called the expulsive power of a new affection. Paul describes it as giving grace to those who hear us. That instead of foul language, we should speak words of thanksgiving. Practically speaking that means we have to stop and taste our own words before we speak them. Are they sweet like honey? Will they help those who hear me savor the Savior? If not, I need to swallow them and prayerfully come up with something worthy of my calling as Christ’s person in the conversation. What would Jesus say that would build up others in this particular occasion? How would God have me be an agent of grace right here and right now?
What might happen if we concentrated on replacing coarse talk with words of grace? How might the conversation change if instead of noting someone else’s shortcomings, we took public note of their humanity? Every person you encounter everywhere in every circumstance is a person created in the image of God with the full dignity of an image bearer. They may not know it and they certainly may not be presently living like it, but it’s true.
Telling people to shut up, calling them names or using derogatory words to describe them or their ideas not only dehumanizes the other, it reveals that we are not conformed to Christ. The worst things Jesus said were true and sometimes hard in terms of judgement, but he was never coarse nor crude. Does our discourse rise to the standard or fall to the standard of the culture to which we are sent as Ambassadors of the Kingdom and the King?
If you wouldn’t say it about Jesus to the face of God, then consider you should not say it to nor about one who bears His image.
A few additional verses to dwell on as we seek to cooperate with the Holy Spirit at work within us, bringing us into greater conformity with Christ on this point.
Proverbs 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
Psalm 141:3 Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.