The first time I ever swore was on the playground at Ridgecrest Elementary School. I was probably in the third or fourth grade and we were playing soccer at recess. Soccer was the sport at that school, with so many of my classmates being recently arrived from West Africa and Latin America.
A boy whose name I did not know came to take the ball from me and performed a rather aggressive slide tackle. It might have been perfectly legitimate but it hurt and I lost the ball and, covered in dirt and injury, I gave myself over to a rage of self-righteous indignation. Without thinking about it I hurled at him the only swear word I knew. "You bitch!" I yelled.
It only made matters worse that he seemed more amused than stung.
I went home that afternoon and tearfully confessed my sin to my parents who did a good job of soothing my tormented conscience without letting me off the hook. And it was important that they not let me off the hook because, even at that young age, I had a sense that my most grievous sin was not the uttering of a bad word, but the commitment of heart-murder. The gun of anger has a way of showing up in my hand, my finger a way of finding that trigger.
We might be tempted to laugh about the playground passions, but the difference between a screamed insult on the soccer field and a brutal murder in an alley is a difference of degree, not a difference of kind.
But God, the long-suffering, relenting God of our salvation; calls us to something higher and better. And an obedience to his high calling leads to a joy and peace far more satisfying than what we feel after a venting of our spleen.
Call to Repentance
1 John 1:8-10 (page 1899)
Call to Worship
Psalm 86 (page 924)
Old Testament Reading
Job 24:13-25 (page 818)
New Testament Reading
1 Peter 4:12-19 (page 1891)
Matthew 5:21-26 (page 1502)
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