There is nothing that is cooler and more apt to make you relevant than a swear word every now and then. When a Christian goes before a live audience, the audience have certain expectations. They expect us to fit into the old caricatures that have developed over time of what a Christian is. So, when the Christian behaves in a way that seems edgy, the audience thinks that not all Christians are wacky fundamentalists. Perhaps they need to rethink this whole Christianity thing. After all, it might be more hip than we all initially thought. So, is this a worthy procedure to draw people into the church? Should Christians attempt to be edgy?
The Line Will Change
Edginess often teeters on the borders between right and wrong. After stepping over the old way of thinking, the outdated fundamentalist moral prerogatives that characterize much of Christianity, these edgy Christians will still hold to some form of Christian morality. They will stand on the edge of that moral system and show the world how far they are willing to go. The world will look on and nod in approval of how sinful they are willing to be as they stand on that edge.
The problem with being edgy should be glaring to anybody. When you are standing on the edge, you will eventually fall off. That is why we build fences. Fences prevent people from falling off. After you step over that edge, you will fall onto another cliff and stand upon the edge of that one. Then you will fall again until you plummet into deepest canyons of immorality. Should Christians attempt to be edgy? If you do, you are going to cross your boundaries and place new ones further out, which you tell yourself that you will never cross until you eventually do. That is how temptation works. Do not be edgy.
Edginess Is Often Disobedient
The edgy Christian seems to have developed a system of relative morality. They will do what they think is right. They rest on the shifting sands of their own personal perception rather than the firm and unshakable ground of God’s inerrant word. If your interpretation of the Bible is changing frequently, or you are suddenly coming to believe that this stuff does not matter anymore, then perhaps you believe in relative morality. But the person who believes that God exists is committed to believing in an ontological foundation for moral values and duties. If God exists, then he is good by necessity. He has a will for how human beings are to live their lives. That will is expressed in the Bible.
Paul tells us, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth…” (Ephesians 4:29). One may object that there is no exhaustive list of swear words in the Bible. That is true, but we generally know what a swear word is. It is disobedient to traverse that boundary.
Further, edginess also involves condoning things that Christians have traditionally thought were sinful. After all, people do not want to be told that they are sinning. They want to be told that they can do anything that they would like. So the edgy Christian may stand in agreement with the world that Paul’s prohibition against homosexuality in Romans 1 has been “misinterpreted.” Perhaps Paul was culturally conditioned, misunderstood, or maybe he was a bigot and we need to move past his moral perspective. Should Christians attempt to be edgy? Well, again, if they do, then the world nods in approval at the expense of keeping Christ’s commands.
We Are Not Supposed To Look Like The World
It can be difficult to be in a world in which we have radically different perspectives than anybody else. This is especially true in modern western culture. The west is rapidly losing its’ Christian roots, along with the foundation for intrinsic human dignity and egalitarianism. So when we express an old-fashioned opinion (like the same-sex marriage is wrong, or that Jesus is the only way to salvation, or that sin is wrong), people react quite indignantly. People have a low opinion of Christians.
Almost in protest, the edgy Christian will stick up their hands and bellow, “Wait! Wait! I am not like them!” and flee from the church into the world, condoning sin and unrighteousness in an effort to gain a nod of approval. Approving sin here or condoning illicit activities there can go a long way. Sinners appreciate when so-called Christians justify them in their sin. Of course, such a Christian looks exactly like the rest of the world. The world loves them.
Jesus promised that the world would hate his followers (John 15:18). He was a light shining in the darkness, and the darkness hated the light and did everything it could to stomp it out so that it could continue to wallow in filth. As Christians, our duty is to continue to be that light (Matthew 5:14). He said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (v. 16). Should Christians attempt to be edgy? Absolutely not. It is our duty to walk in righteousness even though the world may hate it.
The Church Is A Bastion of Righteousness
Christians have sinned. The church is a place of redeemed sinners. As Martin Luther famously coined the term, simultaneously justified and sinners. Though we do sin, we labor against it (Romans 6:2). We stand for the righteousness that has been prescribed in the pages of Scripture. The edgy Christian is not like this. The edgy Christian will point a finger at the church and accuse them of condemning sin. “How can you condemn sin?” they will ask, “…when all of these people love it?” That may not be a direct quotation, but it is implicit in what they do say.
Should Christians attempt to be edgy? Well, if we are condoning sin and teetering on the borders of right and wrong, then how can we stand as a bastion of righteousness? How are we supposed to stand for righteousness if we are always conforming our view of righteousness to contemporary culture? The only way for the church to be a bastion of righteousness is if it stands for what is true independently of what the rest of the world thinks.
The Gospel Is The Power of God
I understand why Christians attempt to be edgy. I understand why they actively try to look like the world. One reason is that they think it will make Christianity seem more attractive to the world. You are proving to them that it is possible to be cool and be a Christian. But then if they were to become Christians as a result, what sort of Christianity would they adopt? They would adopt something less than Christianity. Christendom is already overloaded with false converts. We do not need anymore. Should Christians attempt to be edgy? No. Righteousness does not and cannot change, no matter how inconvenient that might be.
If you want to make converts, then preach the gospel. It is not cool. You will not be able to use swear words. The world will not nod in approval over what you say. Atheists are not going to say that you are rational and free thinking. The world is going to say that you are a hateful bigot who is trying to impose your system of ethics upon other people. They will mock and ridicule you. They will call you names. They will say that you are an idiot, that you believe myths and uncritically accept whatever you are told. That is how the world reacts to the gospel. It is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). The fact that it is foolishness to them does not warrant you to change it or to appeal to their carnal nature.
Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation.” The gospel is what transforms a heart. People hear the gospel and they respond to it. They are given a new heart. If in their carnality, they reject and ridicule the gospel, the solution is not to appeal to their carnal nature. Should Christians attempt to be edgy? No. It does not help anyone to tell a sinner that they can soak in sin for all of their days without worrying about judgment.
If you want to read similar content, see my series on moral questions and social issues.