You have played the whore with many lovers;
and would you return to me?
declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 3:1 ESV
Those that have known me for any significant amount of time and have conversed with me in casual conversation know that when it comes to the “how” of communication I have a tendency to be a “line stepper”. One of the things that the Spirit wrought in my heart when Christ saved me was a commitment to speak differently, not because I believe some words to be intrinsically “bad”, but because culturally I believe that there are things we can say that do irreparable harm to our personal testimony as well as to people’s perspective of the church and Christianity in general. That being said, I still push some lines in conversations with friends, but not in such a way as to strangle my sanctification.
With all of this being true regarding my personality, it is always elicits a grin when I read the Bible and hear very blunt language. In the modern era of the church in Western culture we have shied away from blunt, descriptive, and offensive speech. There are certain things that we don’t typically hear in our pulpits because they are considered crass or out-of-bounds or, dare we say, “ungodly”. Thankfully, for people like me, God doesn’t seem to put as much of a filter on His own words. He speaks, at times, with the crystal clarity that is usually reserved for a Marine Drill Instructor informing a new recruit of his or her shortcomings.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall the last time a minister got up on a Sunday morning and called me a “whore”. We are far to sanitized and dignified for that sort of talk. Ministers have the important job of offending people without offending them. We “stretch the lines” by using terms like “spiritually bankrupt” or “soteriologically challenged” (I probably made that one up), and those are true, but they are a distant cousin to the earthy, blunt, and even rude language of the Bible. Call someone a sinner and call them a whore and see which one elicits a more colorful response.
My simple point today is this, if we start to white wash the way we see ourselves, and truly the way God has described our behavior (and, at times, us), then there are implications that reach further than just our own fragile egos. When I begin to use palatable terms to make myself feel better about what I’ve done when I’ve done wrong there is a tendency then to see the grace of God or the work of the cross in faded colors, or to hear the song of redemption in muted tones. There is room for us to move to the middle in many areas of Christianity, but who we are and who God is are not those areas.
When I stop saying that I “may tend to drift in my morality” and start saying I’m “a whore for whatever dirty lover batts a lustful eye at me”, I start to see the problem a bit clearer. Now, not to be overbearing, I do believe there are plenty of times when correction should be a subtle reminder, or a polite encouragement, but we would be fools to take the other end of the spectrum off the table completely. Because sometimes we only need to be told we have drifted, but sometimes we need to be reminded that we have a proclivity to become whores.
My encouragement, for us all today, is that we wouldn’t make the mistake of rushing over those places in the Text that don’t sound like our modern idea of “holy”, but that we would read the words as if they were written to us. Do we find ourselves in the text or do we only find a historical reference to a people group 3,000 years ago? That question might go a long way to letting us know if we have sanitized our relationship with God by domesticating His message to us. Don’t foolishly think you’ve domesticated God, He will be forced to prove you wrong every time.
The Bible has some very strong language. The opening of Galatians, where he tells a bunch of guys who are into circumcision to “go all the way” and emasculate themselves…probably not something you’re going to have on the flannel graph for the children in the Sunday School.
The question is: what’s appropriate? If God speaks strongly, we should speak strongly. If God speaks frankly, we should speak frankly. If God does so infrequently, we should do so infrequently. But that doesn’t mean that we never use…strong language, harsh tones, cutting remarks, biting sarcasm, devastating uses of humor and irony – because God does.
– Mark Driscoll