Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Third Commandment- do not abuse God's name

(Picture of Obama's hand on Lincoln's Bible at swearing in 1/20/09-AP Photo)

3/25- Third Commandment
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” KJV
7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.TNIV (Exodus 20:7)

Calvin (Genevan Catechism) S. He forbids us to abuse the name of God, not only by perjury, but by swearing without necessity.
M. Can the name of God be lawfully used in making an oath
S. It may indeed, when used on a fit cause: first, in asserting the truth; and secondly, when the business is of such importance as to make it meet to swear, in maintaining mutual love and concord among men.
M. But does it not go farther than to restrain oaths, by which the name of
God is profaned, or his honor impaired?

March 2-8 was no cussing week for Los Angeles County, an effort started by McKay Hatch a middle school boy who started a “No Cussing Club” in Pasadena. One argument I heard against this was, “why can’t the county council do more important things?” Should we only do the top one or two things in life and ignore the rest? I hear that argument against anything anyone does (can't we concentrate on something else- and leave this issue alone?). It is an argument for inactivity toward anything but the top ten. The truth is, life is inter-related. Our speech about others, about God and to others and God is important and a part of society. If we are cursing God and others it does not build up society, but tears it down. The other argument I hear is “You can’t legislate morality.” But of course, all law is a type of morality. If everyone decides to be immoral, no law will stop people. The law is not meant for the evil, but for people who try to be good. Of course there is a balance. There are no penalties to no-cussing week, it is just a good idea to clean up our mouths and bring more respect to our society.
There are two layers that need to be peeled off this commandment. One is the holiness of God’s name. Names in the ancient world represented power. For example, in Jesus’ time, to name the demon meant that you had power over the demon. A name represented expectation. If you named someone “Rotten” then they wouldn’t have high expectations for themselves. But if you names someone “Laughter” (Isaac) they might think they are special and bring joy. The name of God was so holy (YHWH) that no one really knows how to pronounce it- they Jews would not say it. To treat God’s name with respect meant to treat God with respect.
The other layer is from the Middle Ages and Reformation- and that is the whole idea of an oath, and the honor of your name. My mother used to tell me that I didn’t have much, but I had a good, honest name. Your name meant your character. If you signed something- that meant you gave your name- your oath, your promise, your whole self to it. So Calvin insisted this commandment was also about keeping our oaths, our promises, and using our own name with dignity and integrity.
When Obama said he was going to say, "So help me God" some went ballistic. But for people who believe saying this is a way to hold us to what is deep inside- our faith, our honor, our souls. Oaths should not be used lightly. But that doesn't mean they should be refrained from altogether.

Prayer: Lord, may my life, my speech, my actions honor your name. May I be a great witness, not a bad witness for you. Amen.

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