I have a four-year old and a two-year old. And I don’t want them to grow up cursing.
So maybe I should stop.
I hate to admit, but it was kind of funny the first time my eldest repeated a curse word. The second time it was concerning. By the third time, I was overwhelmed with a combination of fear and shame that engulfed my soul (and the dreadful thought of it happening a fourth time, at church).
The last thing I want to do is advocate cursing. And it only happens occasionally; less and less the more I choose Jesus, my wife and my kids, over my desire to say whatever.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
The Bible is clear. My parents thought me better. Only a handful of my friends do it regularly. And honestly, most of my curse words are of the lesser kind, not the really bad ones (Yes, that last sentence made me feel only slightly better). #PrayForMe
Then I started to listen to the new Hillsong United album. And hope rose in my heart! “I’m not alone” I thought. “They too curse like me.”
And now it’s on display for the whole world to see. Not only that, they turned it into worship. And I think God is ok with that.
Maybe He is.
The album is Empires, and the song is called, Even When It Hurts (Praise Song). It goes like this:
“Even when the fight seems lost.
I’ll praise You
Even when it hurts like hell
I’ll praise You
Even when it makes no sense to sing
Louder then I’ll sing Your praise.”
Hurts like hell is a saying used by many people to describe an extreme amount of pain.
In some areas of the world (like Australia) it’s not that harsh. As with most curse words, it’s all about context, audience and intention.
The truth is, divorce and cancer and infidelity do hurt like hell. Insults by an enemy or deception from a friend also hurt like hell. And sometimes being judge for using a term like, “hurts like hell”… hurts like hell.
Christianity Today spoke to Hillsong’s Pastor Robert Fergusson. His job is check all the songs published by Hillsong before they are released, and even though he suspects a lot of eyebrows will be raised due to that line, he is standing by it.
“We live in a desperately broken world. Occasionally, it feels as if hell itself has been unleashed. Of course, we know our victory and safety is in Christ, but it still hurts,” he explained in the Hillsong blog. “The psalmists were never afraid to express their true feelings to God in their laments and and I don’t think we should be either.”
Fergusson said that their hearts have always been in the right place – that is to help people worship God and enable them to sing the truth. And that is exactly what they hope to achieve in the new album Empires.
In the past, Fergusson recalls getting e-mails from people who were not pleased with the songs released by Hillsong. “Our role in this process (which is not perfect) has meant that Amanda and I have been both commended (great) and criticized (not so great) for songs we have never written,” he shared.
They are more than happy to take a few hits for the team but occasionally, some criticisms can become quite unpleasant, and Fergusson hopes that they are still gracious when they give out this response to those who have expressed their displeasure: “If you don’t like our song, please feel free not to sing it.”
So are you?
Going to sing it?
I am (been all day).
This past year I have had moments that hurt like hell. And the absolute best thing I had for God, was my honesty.
You know He can take it right? He’s not easily offended. And He’s looking for worshippers that worship in Spirit and Truth.
We really value the Spirit part in church (a great thing to do) but we should not forget the Truth part either (a very biblical thing to do).
The Psalms are full of emotion, anger, pain and disappointment. David and the other singer-songwriters where not trying to impress a congregation with their skill, they were out to captivate God’s heart with their brokeness.
They were clued into something that the church in the west has forgotten: God knows all things already (the good, the bad and the ugly) so tell Him what He already knows… and turn that emotion, anger, pain and disappointment… into worship.
It’s easier to get offended at Hillsong. It’s better to worship with them.
It’s human nature to focus on someone else’s error. It’s of the Spirit to focus on our own, and bring it to God as a Psalm.
But on with the “cursing” language part. James Prather has a Master of Divinity and an M.A. in Old Testament. He knows a little bit more than I do about the Bible. He talks about curse words specifically in the writings of Paul (for example in Philippians 3, which is a very uplifting chapter). In it Paul describes his previous life and how he had considered works of the flesh to be his righteousness. He talks about how he has left everything for the Gospel and even considers what he’s lost as nothing compared to the glory of Christ which he has been given. It’s a beautiful passage, that is, until you read it in the original Greek and find that it’s highly offensive.
Here’s the passage as it’s translated in the NIV, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, which I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8
Isn’t that nice? Paul considers the things he’s lost as rubbish. The Greek word translated as “rubbish” is skybalon, but that’s not the most accurate translation of the Greek. Skybalon is a dirty word in Greek, and our lovely wholesome translators have really dulled the translation down.
What does it mean? The NET Bible translates it as “dung”, which is still not quite the full meaning. The word here translated “dung” was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers. This may well be Paul’s meaning here, especially since the context is about what the flesh produces.
Because our religious works in the flesh (like trying not to curse to sound more holy) are truly like a steaming pile that a dog leaves on the lawn.
My heart is to speak words of blessing and kindness and purity because that is what is flowing on the inside (not because I’m trying to demonstrate my Christianity). I obviously don’t want to be cursing left-right-and-center, but when I do, I want to check “Why am I cursing?” and let that question draw me closer to God for healing, not away from Him in shame.
[bctt tweet=”Religion is ridiculous. Jesus is wonderful. The two are totally different.”]
Jesus himself used shocking language in Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Incredible how He used harsh language with the ones who lived pretending like they didn’t. And it only takes a couple of verses in the Gospels to realize that Jesus really was all about the heart.
Intentions matter to him. Honesty is essential. Surrender is the model.
So don’t pretend with God. Depend on Him.
And don’t go singing United’s new song because you are in the mood for “cursing”. Do it because it’s true for you. Because you are turning truth into spirit, transforming pain into surrender and shifting curse into blessing.
When It Hurts Like Hell (Praise Him) the only One who saves you from it.
*The new album is truly amazing. Get it here: United / Empires
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