It was a competitive evening. I was playing a basketball game with a group of guys when all of a sudden one of them made a mistake. We’ll call him Alex. Alex cussed after he made the mistake. An older man, whom we’ll call Jack, heard him cuss and told him to watch his language. Alex looked at Jack, dropped his head in disappointment, and apologized. As soon as I saw this scenario take place I became very angry. I had no anger towards Alex, but a lot of anger towards Jack. Jack is an older, strong Christian man. Alex is a young man in high school still searching for truth. In other words Jack IS a Christian and Alex is NOT. Why did this scenario make me so mad? Great question! I was angry because there was no need to correct Alex in his speech. So what, he said the word “damn”. Do we really think that by correcting his speech his heart will change? If so, we have it all wrong!
Why is it that when Alex cussed Jack corrected him? Many believe Jack did the right thing, but I beg to differ. Sure, I believe there is a time and place for everything. If Alex was in front of little kids, speaking in front of a crowd, or cussing excessively and causing a scene, I would ask him to stop. But since he said “damn” in the environment he was in, I find it okay to let it go. In Alex’s situation, what is the correct response? The correct response is no response at all. The best thing you can do in that situation is keep on playing the game like you never heard anything. Why make no reaction to a sick, sinful, pitiful, disgusting, and vulgar word like “damn”? (Sarcasm here) Because Jesus never corrected anyone into Heaven, he loved them into it.
If we tell Alex to stop cussing, one major thing will happen. He will get the wrong picture of the gospel. This is why I became angry at Jack. When he told Alex to stop cussing, what was he implying? It could be put as simple as this: “Alex, you need to stop cussing and clean up your language. Once you’re able to fix your behavior, you will be able to reach God. You have to get yourself together before going to Him.” Jack never said this, but that’s what was implied. It’s as if we have forgotten the gospel. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). We are saved by grace, so why do we preach morals rather than grace? The gospel isn’t after a change in behavior, it’s after you! When Alex cussed, he didn’t need someone to correct him; he needed someone to love him, be his friend, and someone to set a good example.
I have to ask, what are we after? Do we want a change in word choice or a changed life? Do we want a change in behavior or a change of heart? Do we want people to live duplicate lives in which they privatize their sin or do we want people who are the same person wherever they go? Just remember that God is not primarily after a change in behavior, he is after our hearts! Isaiah 29:13 says “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” You can have someone who does and says all the right things, but despite good morals we can’t earn our way to God. Christ already did that for us. So I ask, would you rather see someone who has a clean mouth, but doesn’t know God or see someone who cusses, but knows God? Regardless, just remember that a change in behavior doesn’t always result in a change of heart, but rather a change in heart results in a change of behavior. And how do we change the heart? Not by pointing people to their moral hiccups, but by pointing people to the one who has the power to change the heart. Did Jack do the right thing? You be the judge.