So, Isaiah is seven years old. A seven year old can say “Yes Ma’am” in a very disrespectful way. More than once I’ve had to say, “Don’t be a smart ass!” My hope in using such strong language is that he will see that extent of his sin and repent. But is it appropriate? Are there other ways of cutting to the quick? Do I need to repent?
I find it interesting that Piper finds himself in a similar predicament:
At the Passion07 breakout session you used language that seemed inappropriate to some. Will you explain why you did that?
I regret saying it. I am sitting here trying to figure out why I say things like that every now and then. I think it is a mixture of (sinful) audience titillation and (holy) scorn against my own flesh and against the devil, along with the desire to make the battle with Satan and my flesh feel gutsy and real and not middle-class pious. There is a significant difference between saying that God disciplines his children and saying that he “kicks our ass” (the phrase used at Passion)—the effect of the first can produce a yawn and leave students with no sense of how real I mean it. I think “He kicks our backside” would have sufficed. And even better might have been some concrete illustrations of the Lord's firm spanks.
If I wanted to take the time, and I felt more defensive than I do, I could probably go to the Bible and find language as offensive as that in the mouth of prophets, and even God when dealing with the grossness of evil. But I doubt that the moment in the breakout session called for something that extreme. Sometimes maybe. I hope the Lord turns it for good.
I think if I had it to do over, I would not say it. On the one hand, I don't like fanning the flames of those who think it is hip and cool to swear for Jesus. That, it seems to me, is immature. On the other hand, I want those hip people to listen to all I say and write, and I hope that the Lord may get a hold of them and draw them out of immaturity and into the fullness of holiness. But it backfires if one becomes unholy to make people holy. I suspect there was too much of the unholy in my heart at that moment.
Isn’t it interesting that our language can accomplish just the opposite of what we intended. Here the question is, How do you shake a young audience’s mind out of complacency? Or in my case, How do I get Isaiah’s attention without making things worse?
Some have argued that when Paul used the word “rubbish” (dung), he was using a shocking word. Luther seems to have seen this as license for using foul language in his theological writings.
My guess is, I need to be more creative in stirring up my son to love and good deeds. After all, don’t we scorn the comedian whose whole act is laced with profanity because we see that he is using edge language to make up for his lack of content.
Christians are pushed in ever new and creative ways by not being allowed to slack off with “shock techniques.” We’ve got to do the hard work of coming up with language and parenting techniques that will accomplish what we want without undermining our aims.
My apologies Isaiah, by God’s grace I’ll correct you better next time. God correct me.
Above: Isaiah jumps off the end of earth. Isaiah's first hike up to the top of the Manitou Incline.