Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

"Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain."
Proverbs 30:8, 9
(words in bold mine)

What does it mean to take the name of the Lord in vain? Swearing, certainly, that's part of it and usually the most noticeable part. But, what about our actions? If we profess to know the Lord and don't back that profession up with our actions, are we, indeed, taking the name of the Lord in vain? The above Scripture seems to suggest that in saying that if we steal we are taking the name of thy God in vain.

In Biblical times, a person's name was not just a name that their parents liked, it meant something. It indicated the character of a person. Time and again in Scripture, we see when a name is mentioned usually the meaning is also given.

As Christians, we have a name, too, that is supposed to indicate our character - we are Christ's. We belong to him and we are his representatives here on earth. We are to live in such a way that reflects His character to the world. We are to be obedient to His Word, obeying His commandments; believing them to be commands, not suggestions.

And, when we don't, I believe we are taking the name of the Lord in vain.

Most Christians don't intend to do that; however, we do and we do it enough, apparently, that the world has a very unfavorable opinion of what and who a Christian is.

Last week, after the mass shooting in Orlando, FL, I was stunned and horrified by a clip I saw shown on national news. This clip showed a pastor preaching at a church somewhere in Florida. I have never in my whole life as a Christian heard these words come out of the mouth of a pastor and I hope I never do again. I can't quote verbatim what he said, but in effect, it was - The greatest sadness of this tragedy in Orlando is that more were not killed. Their lifestyle should be obliterated from the earth.

That, my friends, is taking the name of the Lord in vain!

That mentality and those words do NOT represent the heart and character of the God I serve! That mentality and those words do NOT represent the God we read about in the Bible. God became flesh in a man called Jesus and the heart and character of Jesus reflects the true heart and character of God - a god with a heart of love, compassion, grace, mercy and forgiveness - certainly not hate and condemnation!

I believe one of our chief responsibilities as Christians - those of us who profess to know and serve Christ - is to represent Him and His heart accurately to those around us. To do that, we need to know His heart and His character. We find that expressed on the pages of Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture do we see or hear Jesus spewing hatred. The most vile He gets is when He comes against the Pharisees - and what was the reason for that? They were not accurately representing God, His Father! They were proud, arrogant, judgmental and critical of those they considered of lesser character than themselves. They thought they were truly holy and pious and if you didn't believe it, just ask them! Jesus had their number and wasn't afraid to call them on it!

Won't He do the same with us? We are not called to judge others. Scripture in several places expressly forbids it.

"Judge not, that you be not judged."
Matthew 7:1

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."
John 3:16, 17

"And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world."
John 12:47

Jesus was sent by love and in love to this world to love those in the world, not to judge and condemn them.

We, who represent Him are called to love, too - "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. " Matthew 22:36-39

The first and greatest commandment is to love God, but Jesus said the second is "like unto it." Which means, as we live to love the Lord, we are also to live to love others - regardless of who they are, what they are or how they live.

The greatest thing we are called to do is love; not have a successful ministry, not to preach eloquently the word, not to be able to exegesis or expound on the word, but to Love!!  Until we get that right, until we are able to set aside our own prejudices and love the way Jesus did, we will have little effect on the world around us.

May we never take the Lord's name in vain the way that pastor did! May we honor the Lord not only with our words, but with our actions - always! May we live to love - not only Him, but those all around us, too!

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