Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

I want to begin by saying that I am not writing this to offend anyone. What I am about to share are my thoughts based on information I have acquired. You are free to disagree, but let us all agree that we can treat each other respectfully even if we see the world differently. 

Recently, I was in the Book of Exodus. As in the Old Testament. I was reading the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

I also attend BSF, Bible Study Fellowship, an international Bible study each week. Currently, we are studying Genesis. In Genesis Chapter 27 is the story of Jacob tricking his father Isaac and stealing his brother Esau’s blessing. In verse 20 Jacob answered his father’s inquiry by stating, “The Lord your God gave me success.” As we discussed this at Bible study, an idea was introduced to me that I had not learned prior. Our leader said that Jacob had taken God’s name in vain. What I had always understood about taking the Lord’s name in vain was about cussing while using one of the many names for God. However, while this is still the case, she said that taking God’s name in vain is actually to say that something is from God when it is not. That you are acting on behalf of direction from God when you are not. In other words, it is a misuse of God’s word. 

This kind of rocked my boat. You mean to tell me that is what the commandment is all about. It isn’t just letting a “Jesus Christ” slip out when I am mad? I have thought about this for awhile now. Let me be honest, I have certainly sinned in this way. I have used scripture in an attempt to be right about something, not because God had led me to do so but because of my own pride. 

One area that I think this sin is being employed right now in our world is with the gay marriage debate. This was a hot topic last fall and is now in the news because of the Supreme Court cases. 

I am not a Bible scholar. Many would probably say that I am not a good Christian. I will readily admit that I turned from God deliberately over the last decade. As I have turned back to the word and am grasping for faith, there are questions that haunt me. The way many people have treated homosexuals in the name of God has been a big sticking point for me. I don’t want to be associated with bigotry and hatefulness. I have been praying for God to give me understanding. 

The clarity on the issue of taking God’s name in vain seems like an answer for me. I am not going to offer an opinion on what the Bible says about sexual immorality and how that relates to homosexuality. That is not important for this discussion. More than likely you know my view. 

God does not justify hateful words and actions. Even if you believe being gay is sinful, even if, I question why this “sin” is receiving so much attention when the Bible clearly states other behaviors are sinful that are left ignored. It just seems disingenuous. 

I guess my struggle is that what feels like bigotry to me is being defended by evoking God’s word. So for me the belief is not what matters. It is the intention. If the intention is one of personal discomfort. If the intention is to “pick on” a minority group because it doesn’t actually require any personal change or sacrifice, well, I would just have to say that is misusing God’s word. 

This understanding offers me a peace as I work to strengthen my faith. God is love. God loves us all. As I worship God, I can do so knowing that not everything said in his name comes from him. And even that many need to ask themselves, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3.

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