Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

Raiders of the Lost Ark scene

There is a famous scene in the first Indiana Jones movie in which Jones, fresh off a fast-moving battle against a dozen attackers, is suddenly confronted by one more adversary: a massive, sword-wielding warrior. The director had planned a final, climatic fight with Indiana’s whip pitted against the sword of his opponent.

Instead, Harrison Ford simply pulled out a hidden pistol and shot the huge swordsman in the chest.

Ford knew his character was too tired to play around in that scene. He needed his best weapon against a dangerous adversary.

Being a Christian in a fallen world means you and I are also surrounded by dangerous adversaries, but too often we start the fight by tossing away our most powerful weapons. The problem is ultimately one of faith. The Bible calls us to arm ourselves with righteousness, faith, and prayer, but these don’t look very impressive arrayed against the world’s wisdom and power—so we throw down the weapons with “divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Cor 10:4) and snatch up the world’s shiny tin swords.

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A few words about ‘bad words’

I recently came across a social media post from a minister who sent his young son to a conservative Christian summer camp and was disturbed to learn upon his return that all the other campers “swore like sailors.” According to his post, the boys told his son that the Bible says swearing is fine, and the camp counselor declined to take a position on the question. I’m not naming the camp because I know I only have one side of the story, but the vignette is not particularly surprising, as many Christians increasingly view concerns about foul language as mere legalism or political correctness. Given the Bible’s deep concern with what comes out of believers’ mouths, it is worth considering whether being “the salt of the earth” excludes language that is, well… salty.

One challenge when talking about swearing is that it comes in a few flavors, not all of which are created equal. Some swearing is a direct violation of the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7). If you are invoking the name of God to highlight the frustration of stubbing your toe or the excitement of winning your fantasy football bracket, you are breaking the Third Commandment. Period.

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