Here’s the verse that’s been getting under my skin lately, dear reader:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints ; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.Ephesians 5:4
In particular, what’s aggravating me is that phrase: “coarse jesting.” What does that mean? I suspect only a few sermons have explicated that word. The reason? I think it’s because generally we have bigger fish to fry. To whit: Porn. Compared to pornography, coarse jesting is small potatoes. (Wow I’m pulling out the clichés today! my comic idol, Denis Miller would be more disappointed than the women of “The Bachelor” at a Mensa convention) I’m going to say something I don’t think I’ve ever said in print: the writer of this blog is an addict. I was exposed to porn when I was eight years at the house of someone I trusted, and that particular mental dynamite has been firing off and on for 30 years now. I do have my particular drug addiction under control. (as under control as an addict can ever have his addiction!) Thanks to a sponsor, a lot of prayer and a group of dedicated men called the Samson Society, I’m living one day at a time.
The thing is that the standard in scripture is way higher than not looking at porn. It seems that the target for that pointy sword of the spirit is what I’m calling “The Sexualized Mind” It seems God doesn’t just want us to refrain from lusting after body parts but also to change what we like to laugh about as well. Now the question is how far does this go? Can I laugh when someone gets hit in the groin on America’s Funniest Home Videos? Sure racy jokes are bad, but they are also very funny. What happens if I laugh despite my pious nature? Don’t even get me started about what to watch on TV. Is there some middle ground between being a vulgar lout and being Amish?
If you are thinking a little Greek word study will clear this right up, you would be wrong. (as an aside, I have never known a word study to clear anything “right up”. Even if you read Greek, you still have room for interpretation . . . now if only Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyers, and that weird chick who wears a clerical collar and scribbles on the dry-erase board would get that)
The Greek word is eutrapelia. And it’s only used once in the New Testament. In other literature it can mean something positive. “witty” or “pleasant in conversation” Aristotle apparently thinks it’s a virtue. In other contexts, it means “base, ribald or vulgar” It seems all of these interpretations have one thing in common: the sexual. I really don’t have any specific answers to what is “eutrapelia” and what isn’t in this passage. But it’s bugging me because I DO want to inherit the kingdom.
Now that last phrase is REALLY up for debate. Some say it means the same as entering the kingdom as in “you cannot enter the kingdom unless you are born again” in John 3. And so those who engage of eutrapelia are either in danger of not getting to heaven or must not be saved in the first place depending on which book you read in the Christian bookstore. Thanks to a book called The Hungry Inherit, I’ve become convinced it’s neither. Entering the kingdom and inheriting the kingdom (or receiving rewards) are two different things. “Bad Heir Day” demonstrates the difference between salvation and rewards. I don’t want to lose my rewards so I gotta do more than refrain from indulging in porn. I gotta change my mind. I invite you, dear reader, to join into this conversation. No fair just being vague. Do you think not engaging in coarse jesting includes not watching your favorite sit-com? Running like a man on fire when the water cooler talk goes blue? Let’s be specific.
I think sit-coms which are one sexual innuendo after another, scatological jokes without end, etc, should be avoided because they are not edifying and indeed they desensitize us. Passages to think about: Psalm 101:3 and Proverbs 4:23
I so appreciate the “vulgar lout vs Amish” reference. Being afraid of “going overboard” with one’s holiness factor probably keeps a fairly intelligent person from seeking true and complete inner purity. Purity. That word eluded me for such a long time. I interpreted that word to mean “honesty and truth” with oneself. But I’m now at a point where I believe inner purity to refer to a mind that has been willfully “de-sexualized.” In KJV vernacular– slain– on God’s altar of holiness. That process begins to change everything about an individual’s perception of life. In my particular experience I’ve gone back and forth with this dynamic– maybe because I watch way too much TV– or maybe because I’m always looking to be the comedian. I treasure the story of the disciples of Jesus attempting to keep the children from converging on the Lord. When the Master chides his devotees for this his response is revelatory if one truly meditates on it– …”for such is the kingdom of heaven.” A child’s mind, ideally, is not sexualized. The account of the virgin birth is crucial in that even though Christ was “born of a woman”–born “under the law”– he was not born “of sin.” That is a difficult statement to make because it implies that sex equals sin. But given the injunction in Exodus 19:15 or the eligibility factor in 1Samuel 21:4– what else are we to conclude? Even in the New Testament men are told not to withhold intimacy from their wives –unless–they are dedicating themselves to prayer and fasting (thereby intimating that sex and God don’t mix). 1 John 2:12-14 is most likely a reference to the dynamic of sexual abstinence. Upon ceasing to sin we become forgiven and are called “little children.” As we remain in that place of, primarily, mental chastity we are referred to as “young men,” and then at last, “fathers.” Sex is of earth. But God in Christ Jesus is of heaven. Jesus said “you are from below, I am from above.” This is not about being “good enough” or morally superior in any way. It’s simply about the level on which one chooses to function. Do we choose the dynamic of earth with it’s results or do we choose the invisible reality of heaven with it’s rewards. I desperately need the power of God in Christ to operate in my life–and my prayer is that I always listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that urge me to seek and maintain a non-judgemental inner purity (but as a joyous child, not as a dried up drudge) at all costs. ( ‘Don’t mean to sound so “Christianese”– but it is what it is….)