A few weeks ago, I was talking with a ministry friend, and the question came up: would Jesus curse?
I had been talking about the idea that when we mimic someone else's body motions and language characteristics, they subconsciously feel more connected to us. This is a psychological truth that has been tested again and again and shown to be legitimate. It's also a potentially good place for ministry to begin - if you can get someone to feel comfortable with and connected to you, do you not have a better chance of ministering effectively to their heart? The question my friend posed, and the one which we tossed around a bit, was essentially, Yes, but how far are you willing to go?
Would Jesus curse?
There are several considerations we have to make when answering this question. The first is, what is cursing? Where is the line in language? We don't see any four-letter words in the Gospels, but we also have a Jesus who calls the Pharisees some pretty harsh names - snakes, vipers - and talks about the merchants as thieves. Is this first-century foul language? Some say yes, it absolutely is.
Yet we must also note how careful Jesus was with His words, even with these harsh words. Today's curse words have no context most of the time; they are used as "language enhancers," the way that salt is meant to bring out the taste of food. Therefore, vulgar or not, they are idle words, and I think that's enough to say that Jesus would not use them.
But then again, Jesus was a man of men. He was human. If He doesn't use the vernacular of the time, is He relatable? Do people take Him seriously? It's very difficult for us to hear someone whose language is so far from our own.
Still, too, we must remember that Jesus was a man made in our form so that we could be men made in His image once more. So how much are we willing to say that the Son of God must be like us in order to make us most effectively like Him?
There are no simple answers, which is probably why this question stuck with me.
Then this week, as I wrote about shame and nakedness and the exposed Jesus, I think there are some correlations that can be made between those questions and this one. And I think the answer is: no one would really notice.
Now, wait a minute. I hear you saying that it's ludicrous that no one would notice a four-letter bomb dropping out of Jesus' holy mouth. Certainly, that would be eye-popping, wouldn't it?
I don't think so.
See, the Scriptures don't tell us much about the naked Jesus, either, but we can know with some confidence that at certain points in His ministry, He was just this - in the buff. It was common for fishermen to strip some measure of their clothing for work. We know He was stripped naked after His condemnation. We know He laid His grave clothes aside, leaving Him with....what? But this is not the emphasis of the narrative, and I honestly think nobody really noticed.
Because there was no shame.
Jesus is not bound by the same stuff that we are. His entire presence, His very being, emits this complete confidence in who He is that I think overshadows whatever hesitations we might have in our fallen flesh. I think we are so enamored by the heart that He wears on His sleeves that we don't even notice whether He's wearing sleeves or not. I think we're so touched by the tenderness in His tongue that we don't pay that much attention to what kind of language He uses (at least in a casual, conversational sense - we do notice when He says "brood of snakes"). More surprisingly, particularly to a world that seems to pick up on the slightest controversy, I don't think we would notice that He doesn't curse.
The question was raised in the context of ministry - how far do we go to establish a connection with the people to whom we minister? Would Jesus curse? Should we?
And I think the answer is this: if we get our heart right, if we get His heart right, I don't think people would notice either way.