There’s this dance that Christians like to do with each other that has two steps or movements to it:

Step 1: Place foot in mouth.
Step 2: Laugh.

It’s a really simple dance that we find ourselves doing quite often. It normally involves us making a joke of somebody else or something others might consider serious thus giving offense. A few years ago a family that we had been encouraging to attend finally came to church where I was preaching. This was a major step for them. One Sunday he wore some very colorful and bright suspenders which I made a joke about. I intended no offense and although the joke itself was not one of derision or even sarcasm, I apparently struck a nerve. If he got offended so easily, wouldn’t he have gotten just as offended over something else? Probably. But since I can’t control what others think and do, I’m left with choosing words and actions based on how they affect others.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

I know that that verse has been overused and abused, but we need to continually keep it in mind. In 1 Corinthians Paul calls the Christians in that community worldly and not spiritual because they are fighting over issues that are nothing in the Kingdom of God. Much of what Paul writes is in response to dysfunctional relationships and most of his commands are about what it looks like to love others. In fact later in 1 Corinthians Paul says that, “love edifies.” Few people can have a positive relationship where they bicker, complain, and tear each other down in joke like fashion. I must give the caveat that it can happen, I have one of those rare relationships with Tim Reed, a previous writer for this site. Maybe it’s cathartic for us but we can have that kind of relationship because we also encourage and edify when we need to do that. And quite frankly, what we say isn’t true and nobody thinks it is.

But for most of us, most of the time, we don’t know if that “joke” was actually a stab or just nothing. Or sometimes it seems that that “just kidding” line or smiley is just a mask for what we “know” to be a statement that person believes. (Of course we don’t know, but we like to assume.) There’s the classic jokes about how Southern women can get away with saying the most rude and awful comments about others as long as “bless their heart” immediately precedes or follows the comment. We do that up North with “Don’t get me wrong” or “I love them, but.” Or if what we are about to say is really mean we might combine the two.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love you all, but you all are turning into a bunch of mean spirited, antagonistic, backbiting jerks. Bless your hearts. Let’s start growing together toward maturity and seek to encourage, teach, pray for, mourn with, rejoice with, challenge, correct, and be corrected with love and humility.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, January 9th, 2010 at 5:09 pm and is filed under Devotional, In Tone and Character. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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11 Comments(+Add)

1   Chris L
January 9th, 2010 at 5:17 pm

We were discussing “bless your heart” backstage at church a few weeks ago (after the youngest member of the band did/said something characteristically off-kilter (just silly, not off-color). The stage manager noted that she was always taught that when you hear someone say “bless your heart” to you, that it should be translated “idiot, idiot, idiot”…

Good article Christian, and a good reminder.

2   Rick Frueh
January 9th, 2010 at 11:28 pm

“and a good reminder.”

Yea, like a post it. Reminder? How about a shameful expose that is more true than not? Anyone searching for Jesus in a blog thread would be led to atheism. I’ve come close myself.

3   Jerry
January 10th, 2010 at 1:52 am

Had an incident with my son the other day. He had had a tough day…i cracked a joke about it. Not a good thing.

Thanks for the heads up.

4   Rick Frueh
January 10th, 2010 at 7:18 am

How about:

With all due respect, I think your sister is a whore.

5   Christian P
January 10th, 2010 at 9:39 am

Funny, Rick, but not helpful.

6   Rick Frueh
January 10th, 2010 at 10:35 am

I thought you were looking for absurd disclaimers?

7   Christian P
January 10th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I’m not really looking for them. So if you were offering that as an example of another one that we use, then yes, I’ve heard that (and may have even used it). Sorry, I thought you were just making a joke. I think your example was so extreme that it made me laugh.

8   Rick Frueh
January 10th, 2010 at 2:45 pm

You hear “Bless their hearts” while in the north we heard “With all due respect” and then the person would say something very offensive.

“With all due respect I have a difficult time believing you have any intelligence at all. With all due respect”.

9   merry    
January 11th, 2010 at 2:01 am

Where I come from, that’s called the “sandwich criticism”…they use it in schools to attempt to keep self esteem intact. Does it work? No….

10   Christian P
January 11th, 2010 at 10:14 am

If it gels together, I might just do a post on self-esteem and edification.

11   Chris L
January 11th, 2010 at 10:16 am


The sandwich, in my experience, really serves little but to take the edge off of any praise/recognition, because you’re always waiting for the next shoe to drop.