One of the earliest Sunday school lessons (that I remember) that stuck out to me was the lesson (series of lessons?) on the 10 Commandments. Now, I know that there are more than 10 commandments; to be precise, there are actually 613 commandments, both “do’s” & “don’ts” in the Law of Moses, aka the Torah. But all of the commandments are kicked off with “the 10” in Exodus 20, & for reals, 10 is an easier number to remember than 613. And, since we’re on the topic – Jesus narrowed it down to 2, which is even SIMPLER to remember than 10. As a firstborn, I am generally partial to lists & rules, so I really paid attention that particular week. I ‘learned’ the commandments & over the years I have tried to internalize not just the letter of those commands but also the spirit of them (Jesus goes into more detail on that with His “You’ve heard it said… but I say to you…” scriptures. If you click on that link, it will at least give you an understanding of what I’m talking about.)
Like many of you, I’ve been pondering the events in our nation’s capital last week (here’s a sneak peak just in case you’ve been out of touch or out of town, both of which I was last week. Ah, Lake Tahoe, miss you much). There’s a whole lot to think about… & one of the things that is repeatedly coming to mind are the depictions of people “storming the Capitol building” while holding signs that identified their actions as being associated with being followers of Jesus & acting in His Name. Reminded me of the 3rd commandment (you knew I’d eventually get back to the 10 commandments.)
“You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His Name in vain. – Exodus 20:7 – English Standard Version
Looking back, my parents did a phenomenal job of helping me to learn about & live out our faith; not just the facts of it, but the spirit behind it as well. And, I sure learned the 10 commandments. I can recall several conversations that we had on what it meant to take the Lord’s Name in vain. It meant:
- Using the Name as an exclamation or a ‘replacement’ swear word;
- Speaking/writing the Name in a casual, common, derogatory, or irreverent manner;
- Avoiding words & phrases that were close to taking the Name in vain (&/or that were euphemisms for it. Stuff like “gosh, golly, god, etc…” You get the picture.
For us it WASN’T about a list of ‘approved &/or rejected’ good/bad words; it WAS about honoring God & treating the Name with the respect & honor it deserves. (FWIW: There’s a whole bunch of scripture on the Name of God & the Name of Jesus… For example, my brothers & I knew that the Name was never to be used in a cavalier, disrespectful, or common manner because of the significance of the Name – the only Name under heaven given for people to be saved; the power of the Name -power to save, heal, transform, & protect; & the authority of the Name – one day every knee will bow & tongue confess the Name.)
A few things that keep surfacing in my head/heart – for me/others to:
- Live & act & declare the Name of Jesus in a way that does NOT reflect the heart, character, & nature of Jesus Christ = taking His Name in vain.
- Apply Jesus’ Name selectively & incongruently to my causes, my beliefs, my politics = taking His Name in vain.
- Use Jesus’ Name to endorse political, economic, &/or military campaigns = taking His Name in vain.
- Use the Name of Jesus as endorsement of a course of action I am undertaking in an attempt to add significance, weight, &/or legitimacy = taking His Name in vain.
I know this isn’t an exhaustive list of what it means to take His Name in vain, but they are 4 types of ways that we DO it, to the detriment & discredit of our witness as believers in Christ. I don’t have all the answers & I know I’ve got a 2×4 in my own eye, so long before I go looking to try & get the sawdust out of ANYONE else’s eye, I’m asking that the Holy Spirit would go to work & address the junk in me.
So what am I supposed to do if/when I want to show Jesus is alive, active, & real in my life? Here’s a few ideas:
- Love God with all of my heart, soul, mind, & strength. Mark 12:29-31
- Love my neighbors. Mark 12:29-31
- Be kind/show kindness (love in action) to all. Ephesians 4:31,32
- Do to/for others what I’d want them to do to/for me. Matthew 7:12
- Be quick to listen, slow to speak, & slow to become angry. James 1:19
- To the best of my ability live at peace with all people.
- Only speak that which is helpful, encouraging, life-giving, & builds others up. Ephesians 4:29
In & around these (& other) Scriptures, there is also a TON of instruction on getting rid of/taking off the the junk in my life: the anger, the language, the attitudes, the behaviors, the spite, the hatred, etc… & putting on the New/putting on Christ – that which reflects Him & His Nature.
Feels like there is a lot of repenting, reflecting, & soul-searching ahead… & that is a good thing. Allowing my actions to speak & letting my words be few… that is too.