Paul‘s list of idolatrous tendencies to be put to death seems pretty straightforward. Sexual immorality is (basically) sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Impurity continues the sexual theme, but it is less specific. Lust is lust. Evil desire is not the actual sexual immoral act, but its very thought. If fact almost all of these are sex. Except for greed. It seems strange to throw greed (or covetousness) into this, but we can recognize that all of these are selfish things that hurt, oppress, or steal from others.
It’s the next words that become interesting. Anger is more of the always angry person (i.e., temperament), rather than being angry (though do not sin in your anger, Ephesians 4:26–27). Wrath is more akin to jealous anger so as to diminish others. Malice is seeking to do harm (physically or verbally). Slander is speaking badly of others so as to diminish their reputation. Do not lie to one another. All of these seem pretty simple. It’s the one that was skipped that is very tricky as the culture changes around us.
Filthy language. From a church perspective, and even a few cultural decades, filthy language seemed pretty clear cut. However, as the culture changes, so too does our awareness of “filthy”. Obscene is still pretty straightforward. However, aischrologia (the Greek word used here) also means culturally inappropriate. And, this dear framily should cause us to pause.
Regardless of how one feels about much of the discourse in general society, there are certain words that are not so culturally appropriate and even more when considering the context. In fact, there are many words and phrases that are no longer appropriate. The list is rather long, and it regularly changes. Instead of being offended by our words being taken as offensive, the better tactic is to work and not speaking in a way that offends.
Now, this does not mean silence the Christian witness. This does mean that your choice of words “tells” another person how much you value them. If you willingly speak words or phrases that are no longer culturally acceptable, then others will cease to value your words.
This often becomes a cultural battle of they shouldn’t be “snowflakes” or “super-sensitive”. Yet, we are to answer for our witness. While many may agree or disagree with your perspective of others, it’s Jesus‘ perspective of them that should matter most.
- Can you think of a time recently where you thought of others less because they were hurt by a common word or phrase? What do Paul’s words tell you about that?
- There appears to be an increase of verbal sensitivity, on the one hand, yet an increase in uncivil discourse. How do you think Paul’s words and Jesus’ perspective should inform your response to both?
- Regarding obscene/filthy language, much of the culture no longer finds it so. How do you think Paul’s words apply in that case?