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A Rose by Any Other Name is Still a Rose (4 of 5)

Growing up in the south, I have come to love many endearing qualities about this region. I never really thought much about it until I spent years traveling the country. I experienced a culture shock when I first started traveling. I had no idea things were so very different from one region to the next - in my own country. I never considered myself a "country" girl; I mean, after all, I had cable and indoor plumbing even had one of them there fancy programmable thermostats and everything. By that time, I thought Fayetteville have morphed into "a big city" and papa had taught us growing up how to speak "the King's English" and I was certain I did not speak with a "Southern accent." What could possibly go wrong?

I knew nothing. I quickly learned just how naive I actually was. Apparently, I did speak with a Southern accent and many of the words and phrases I used were foreign to others. For instance, the word "ugly." I frequently use it to say, "isn't that ugly" or "stop being so ugly" meaning that was impolite, rude, not so kind. This completely confuses folks who are on the West Coast who thought I was literally calling someone or something ugly. Another word, "ill" (which apparently, I pronounce "eel") caused a ruckus (which is another southern phrase not understood by folks not from the south) which lasted for weeks. I use it, "You're making me ill" or "don't make me ill" which led to multiple attempts to take me to the doctor. Try calling something a "doohicky" in a region other than the south and see how folks react. My favorite is, "ought not." I had no idea I used that phrase so much until I heard a bunch of northerners try to incorporate it into their speech and do so incorrectly. Talk about making me ill!

It went the other way as well. I heard things I was unaware of. I tend to use "coke" as the generic term of any soda. Well, this can cause an issue as some places call it pop, soda, etc. Up North, they like to abbreviate and cut off the last part of your name (like it takes too much energy to pronounce the whole thing.) A shopping cart is a buggy (which I thought was what a horse pulled) in some places. It is all quite confusing. Couple all of this with accents and at times, it was like learning a whole different language. To make it worse, sometimes, words have different meanings based off of tone of voice and body language. A perfect example of this is here in the South, the word, "honey" can be a term of endearment or a dire warning, so be sure you listen closely when it is spoken to you. The same can be said of the phrase, "bless their (his/her) heart." It can be meant as a true blessing, a sympathetic implied slur or sarcastic euphemism with ill intent.

Words and phrases are important to Christians. As we grow in our Christian faith, we learn this. The truth; however, has been replaced with "man's definition" not God's qualitative and quantitative aspects. Again, we are faced with "twisted scripture" or at the least an interpretation that deviates from its original meaning and intent.

Ephesians 4:29a:

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth..." KJV

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths..." NIV

James 3:10:

"Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these

things ought not so to be." KJV

"Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this

should not be." NIV

While there are a few other examples, these are the two most common used to argue "cussing" is a sin. Stop for a moment. What defines cussing? To understand this, one must understand the difference between cussing, swearing and cursing.

While most of us use the terms cussing, swearing and cursing interchangeably, by their truest definitions and origins, they mean three different things. Cursing originated with the early Church. It was seen as, "the expression of a wish that misfortune, evil, doom, etc., befall a person, group, etc." Profanity, as defined by the early church, was any speech, "directed against God." It would and could be profane and/or a curse to wish misfortune on others, and perhaps wishing harm on other people could be seen as belittling the faith in the divine. Cussing is simply an American alteration of curse; its meaning “to say bad words” was first recorded in 1815. Swearing took it to another level as it has a double meaning of "oath taking" as well as using "curse words" (which in the beginning were defined as taking the Christian God’s name in vain or speaking of acts that were considered sinful.) As you can see, we have manipulated even the earliest meaning of these words.

To understand the importance of speech, we must start with what God says. Here are a few things to help:

Exodus 20:7:

" Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain ; for the Lord will not

hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. " KJV

"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not

hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." NIV

Luke 6:45:

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is

good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that

which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." KJV

James 1:19:

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to

listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry," NIV

Matthew 12:36:

"But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give

account thereof in the day of judgment" KJV

Proverbs 10:19:

"Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues." NIV

Need more? Try reading: Proverbs 15:23, 17:28, 15:1, 18:2, 11:9, 4:24, 10:18; 1 John 3:18, Ecclesiastes 10:12, Luke 12:3, Colossians 4:5-6, 3:17; James 5:12 and Psalm 139:4, 34:1. These are but just some.

In a brief summary, what are these verses trying to convey? Let's start with the 3rd commandment. Many misunderstand this to mean don't say things like "God, it's hot outside" or "Oh my God!" Do not get me wrong, this is in poor taste and truly not the best use of words, but it is not the purest definition of taking the Lord's name in vain. When you study this and trace it back to it's roots, it literally translates to "carrying God's name" and doing "evil in God's name." This is why He will not hold you guiltless. Think about it, carrying out a war in the name of God is pure evil and thus, breaking the 3rd commandment. When you purposely preach the Word of God incorrectly, that is taking God's name in vain (we are also told about this in the Book of James.) When we use God as the reason for committing acts, speaking in a way that tears others down (to include gossiping, lying and destroy them) or when we sin justifying it using God, that is taking God's name in vain. It is blasphemous and offensive to God. Period. There is no ifs, ands or butts.

When it comes to speaking, the Bible is quite clear. No where is there a list of forbidden words. Words are basically created by man. If we are to look at society today, we find that words people find offensive change from day to day. What may have been acceptable to say yesterday may not be acceptable today. It is not specific words, it is instead, what we do with the words and the manner in which we speak them. The Bible tells us you can tell a lot about a person by what comes out of their mouth. Do they constantly complain? Gossip? Spread rumors? Tear people down? Boast? Talk about themselves? Are they argumentative? Always have to be the smartest? Know everything? Are they arrogant? Do they butt in every conversation? Do they go on and on and on and on? Do they speak to hear themselves talk? We are all guilty of it at one time or another. The truth is, as Christians, the words we speak should reflect the beliefs we hold. I'll explain it like this: Jesus spoke in parables and hung out with what we would refer to as "commoners." More than likely, he spoke the common vernacular. You, too, can adopt the "common vernacular" wherever you are or go and still not sin. You don't have to attend every argument you are invited to. Stop gossip in its tracks. Build people up instead of tear them down regardless of how you feel. You don't have to offer your resume every time you meet someone. Humility is a trait of a true servant. We learn more by listening than speaking. We are told to lovingly and gently deal with our brothers and sisters. Has complaining ever solved any problems? A closed mouth cannot be misquoted, misheard or misunderstood.

One thing that is often forgotten when we think of speaking, is the enemy. God has no equal. Isaiah 46:9-10 reminds us of this. God is omnipresent and omniscient whereas the enemy is not. This means he does not know everything and he is not everywhere. The enemy must rely on other means to help him reach his goals and one of the biggest things he relies on is us. Satan is a liar and a thief. If he cannot outright steal your salvation, he will do what he can to steal your vision, kill your faith and defeat your purpose. How does he accomplish this? One of the ways he does this is by watching your actions and listening to the words you speak. The words you speak to others and yourself. Think about it. He is not all knowing so he does not know your heart; however, your heart is manifested through your actions and words (see above.) If you are constantly complaining or speaking your fears or gossiping or tearing people down or boasting, etc., are you not providing him with all the ammunition he needs to launch an attack? The information he needs to gain a foothold in your life is being laid out by you!

While we should be respectful of others with the words that come out of our mouth (i.e. if you know they think or hold the words to be explicative in nature, don't use them.) We need to remember that words themselves are not sinful. It is what we do with our words and how we use them. If I go around "blessing everyone's heart" but in my heart I really mean something else, then I should have just said what I meant; there is no difference.

There is power in the spoken word! We can speak life. We can build someone up. We can stop the enemy dead in his tracks. We can also prevent him from knowing certain ways to attack us. We can praise our awesome and amazing God! Words are just that - words. It is what is behind them that gives them power. Use that power as Jesus did and spread the goodness and mercy and grace and love of an all knowing, almighty God to a world that needs it! You might just find that you get it back.

Join us next week for the last post in the series! Be sure to share with a

Friend! Catch up on any you have missed and as always e-mail us with

any suggestions or comments.

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