There seems to be an outbreak of professing Christians these days who think it's OK to curse. They almost wear it on their sleeves as a badge of maturity. They're so sophisticated, they're not bound to the rules they once were as children. They're cool Christians, not one of those legalistic and uptight varieties. But what it really says about them is something quite different. It actually indicates the presence of demonic activity in his or her life, and likely indicates either spiritual immaturity or false Christianity altogether. Since this describes my friends on the more liberal side of evangelicalism and a large portion of the emerging church, let me share an experience in my journey before I share what Scripture has to say about it.
When I was 10, I supposedly became a Christian. I went forward at an altar call, having had a deep emotional experience and believed everything about the gospel I had been told at that time (although repentance wasn't a part of that message). I read my Bible a bit, but it was just a picture Bible, not the actual Bible. Still, it gave me a good framework for the biblical story.
Now, as the years past, my language got worse. If it was clean in the beginning of my "Christian" walk, it certainly wasn't as I approached my teen years. If a sentence didn't have at least three "F" words in it, I considered it incomplete. To let you know how bad it was, I once was rebuked by my atheist friend that I cursed too much (and he cursed all the time). I was constantly thrown out of my Biology class for cursing (although my mother never knew because I would never quite make it to the office once I left the classroom). So my language, as a supposed Christian, wasn't clean.
Now, I'm recounting this because when I became a real Christian, my bad language stopped. Immediately. By itself. In other words, I didn't try to quit because now I wanted to be a good Christian. I was a Christian, and without any thinking on the matter, it just stopped on its own. In fact, I remember thinking one day, "Hey, I don't cus anymore." It was kind of a weird experience to tell you the truth. It just left. I had only a couple lapses, where I said a word I shouldn't have (both times in anger, which should be a good indicator of what spirit this sort of language is from) after that, but that was it.
I truly believe that my language stopped because I had been a false Christian, not a real one. When I became a real Christian, the demonic presence in my life departed. As an aside, this is why I likely harp on false Christianity so much. I have been an unbeliever, a false believer, and a real believer. The difference between the first two is only in what you believe or feel about Christianity, not in a transforming way where Jesus as Lord has greatly influenced your conduct in life. In fact, I think the reason why false Christians have a hard time with the exclusivity of Christianity is because the only difference they see between themselves and unbelievers is what they believe in their heads. Well, of course, that is the only difference, because neither one of them is a Christian. For we who have seen the difference between being an unbeliever and a genuine Christian, there is no comparison to be made, since our lives are characterized by continual repentance from sins (that we still unfortunately, but not wholeheartedly, commit) rather than acceptance and indulgence in them.
But I digress. Now, you may wonder where I'm getting this idea that cursing has to do with demonic activity. Of course, my experience is just that. Someone will just say that's my interpretation of those things, so let's look at what Scripture says.
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul has begun his discussion about what a life that has been saved looks like. He gives directions on what it should:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment,] that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
The word for "unwholesome" here is sapros. It often refers to fruit that is rotten. Like fruit, language can be good or rotten. Hence, other nuances of the word are "bad" and "worthless." Let no bad word proceed from your mouth, but only a word that is good for building up someone's commitment to Christ in holiness and truth (i.e., what edification means in the NT).
Paul continues a more dire warning in 5:3-9:
But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and [there must be no] filthiness and silly talk, or crude language, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light [consists] in all goodness and righteousness and truth)
There are important factors here to notice. Contrary to popular opinion that cursing is just a minor crime, the Holy Spirit through Paul tells us that it is on par with sexual immorality, impurity, and selfishness, which are themselves things that display that one is not saved. Those who have an inheritance with Christ do not practice these things, but if they fail in them, repent from them. They do not laugh at the puritanical legalists who don't curse. They say, "Amen," with Paul and seek to evaluate their lives as to why cursing is still present even though they are supposedly Christians. It may not be a coincidence that much of our cursing contains words that have to do with an immoral use of sex and sexual organs. The two are tied together.
The first word for filthiness describes what is shameful in the eyes of God. It is not fitting for someone who claims to be a follower of Christ. The second word describes a lack of sobriety and wisdom in one's speech. It is foolish talk, or the way that morons talk, that is devoid of truth. The last word describes what we would call curse words. Paul just calls them "crude language," but it's not just crude in the sense that we think of it. Crude language is inappropriate language. It doesn't fit the claim to follow Christ either. All of this is not redeemed language. It remains the language of the damned, and as such, is not fitting for Christians who proclaim Christ's lordship, not only in deed, but also by the words they choose to speak.
Paul also tells us in Romans 3:14 that they damned/unredeemed (i.e., all of us) have mouths of cursing and bitterness. As with filthy talk and sexual immorality, it may not be a coincidence here, then, that many of our curse words include things about God, Jesus, damning, and hell, as these are all words one invokes in cursing/condemning something or expressing displeasure (only it is done in an unholy manner).
In First Peter 4:10, Peter says, Whoever speaks, [let him speak,] as it were, the utterances of God . . . so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Does your language reflect the holiness of God's character? Is it what you would use in His presence with a full understanding of what it is in light of His displeasure with it, and its association with the demonic denial of Christ?
Now you can understand why I don't like preachers who are crude or use curse words because they're supposedly more sophisticated and have a greater freedom than those restricted legalists who put a reign on their tongues (you know, like the way the Epistle of James tells us to do). I don't care if they agree with me in some of their theology. They are adolescents, who still think its cool to be crude and curse, since cursing gives them a sense of community with the damned. Yet, we are told that the wrath of God comes upon the unredeemed for these things, and that those who practice them are not saved. Forget not being qualified to be an elder, we must take Scripture as our light and ask if this is the behavior of a Christian at all. The condemnation of the church at Pergumum had to do with its moral lax. They had their doctrine straight, but not their morals. Hence, they are in jeopardy of damnation if they do not repent of it (Rev 2:12-17).
My point here is not to attack pastors like this, who often violate pretty much every principle we mentioned above (as well as things I would apply from Second Peter 2 and other texts concerning false teachers and their association with sexual immorality); but to point out that you can't trust the fact that others, who you think are Christians, curse without impunity. In fact, cursing may be an indication that the wrath of God (which is one that gives over the individual to be controlled by their impulses) upon that person's life. Therefore, do not mimic their behavior. Lest you be woken up in the presence of our holy God some day, and say with the condemned Isaiah, "Woe is me, for I am damned! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For [now I know because] my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
To betray Christ with our words is no minor infraction. It exalts the filthy kennel that the devil has made out of the fallen world and the dogs he has made of men as his subjects within that kingdom. It's unbecoming, and a betrayal of highest order, for you to keep the language of the damned when you supposedly have been made new in the kingdom of God. True humanity should not have the gutter language that it once had as false humanity any longer. If it quacks like a duck, it probably is one, and the one who speaks like an unbeliever probably is an unbeliever. Only repentance, or the lack thereof, upon hearing this truth will tell.