Sunday, December 22, 2013

Talking Dirty - The Instructor on Filthy Speaking

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"From filthy speaking we ourselves must entirely abstain, and stop the mouths of those who practice it by stern looks and averting the face, and by what we call making a mock of one: often also by a harsher mode of speech. 'For what proceedeth out of the mouth,' He says, 'defileth a man,'—shows him to be unclean, and heathenish, and untrained, and licentious, and not select, and proper, and honourable, and temperate." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 6)
It is not always easy to live a life that is honoring to God and is befitting of our elevated position in Christ. This can be especially true when we are in a group with others and the conversation sinks down to the realms of the base, the ignoble, and the perverted; when we are in a crowd and others start using filthily and disgusting talk and speak of detestable things that offend the Spirit within us. Part of us wants to smile or laugh along as not to stand out or be embarrassed in front of others. It is hard at times like these to know what to do and to do the right thing. However, not only should we abstain from such talk ourselves, but we should not enter into or even become a passive participant by smiling or feigning laughter just to "fit in." Sometimes, though difficult, stoic silence is enough to show our displeasure and, in some cases, to even turn around the course of the conversation. By refusing to participate, people will eventually understand our sensitivities and, either not include us in their filthy discussions, or even begin to modify their behavior so as to not offend and to fit in with us themselves.
"And as a similar rule holds with regard to hearing and seeing in the case of what is obscene, the divine Instructor, following the same course with both, arrays those children who are engaged in the struggle in words of modesty, as ear-guards, so that the pulsation of fornication may not penetrate to the bruising of the soul; and He directs the eyes to the sight of what is honourable, saying that it is better to make a slip with the feet than with the eyes... What, then, are the salutary ear-guards, and what the regulations for slippery eyes? Conversations with the righteous, preoccupying and forearming the ears against those that would lead away from the truth... For he who associates with the saints shall be sanctified." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 6)
Sometimes our struggle is not with associates who live to talk dirty, but with what we voluntarily allow ourselves to see and hear. This can include our choice of music, entertainment, and movies. How can we pursue purity of our soul and yet voluntarily subject ourselves to obscenities in the music we hear and the movies we watch? We cleanse our souls only to fill them up with filth time and time again. While no one can make these decisions for us, and we must set our own limits, we all must evaluate what we choose to let into our ears and our eyes as to whether or not they hinder or help our progress towards a sanctified soul.

However, even when taking control over what we voluntarily let into our eyes and ears, many of us are faced with obscenities through out our day that we cannot simply ignore. I used to live in Las Vegas and could not drive back and forth to work without being confronted by the filth of licentiousness plastered on billboards through out town. How does one maintain a sanctified soul in the mist of a world bent on corruption? Fortunately God had provided us "salutary ear-guards" in the form of our Christian brothers and sisters. When we spend time with each other we build one another up and strengthen each other against the defiling onslaught of the world. Our righteous conversation heals our ears and our hearts and fortifies us against the obscenities of the world that we simply cannot escape. We need each other and in our fellowship there is healing and strength.

David Robison

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