Anyone who knows me would readily say I have a filthy mouth. I cuss like a sailor (perhaps because I was one) and frequently make dirty minded remarks. This nasty habit isn’t one that I pride myself in, as I’ve made many attempts to temper it. Although somewhat controllable in certain company, the filth eventually spills out and, only recently, am I aware of when I’m doing it. All that said, so I’m not even minutely excusing myself for my trashy talk, there’s one form of cussing that I can most assuredly say that I’ve never delved into: cursing God, or using His name in vain.
The third commandment in Exodus 20:7 reads, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” As a friend and I read through Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, he elaborates what insight he has on the purpose and meaning of this commandment. Calvin puts it quite succinctly, “God wills that we hallow the majesty of his name. Therefore, it means in brief that we are not to profane his name by treating it contemptuously and irreverently” (Vol I Book II p.388). As an aside, he continues to draw out more from the meaning of it as he extends use of calling on God when proclaiming an oath, making an assumption that a Christian who reveres the name of God will speak in plain honesty if His name is in play. This idea was new for me since Jesus says to “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No'” (Matthew 5:37) and James writes, “Do not swear-not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No'” (James 5:12). Calvin makes a convincing case that we are allowed to call God’s name into our pledges as long as we’re aware of the severity of our claim.
All in all, as Christians, we’re inherently assumed to revere the name of the God we worship. However, several terms abound which do nothing but insult and degrade Him as confessing believers misuse His name in speech. In conversation, we speak of God carelessly, using His name as an expression of surprise, shock, contempt, and any other emotion that begs a worded response. It’s all over the media, all throughout our social circles, and all around offensive. Not only the OMG acronym, but I hear the name of Jesus Christ used as well and not in the context of referring to the actual God and Jesus that we know. Very little offends me personally, but for reason, this does. I am constantly bombarded by the misuse and am talking myself down inside as I’m reminded of Who has the ultimate offense made against them; namely, not me.
Primarily, my unease lies with Christians who partake in using His name in vain; however, those that are not followers of Christ that do so perplex me. I’m thoroughly confused as to why the name of God or Christ is utilized in their speech when they don’t recognize His very existence. Believe me, I’ve got a myriad of expressions in my vocabulary that I use to emote with and I guarantee none of them are of names that represent other false gods. That’s not to say that I don’t use them out of courtesy to those around me who do worship a false god, but because I simply don’t recognize their existence. So my logic leads me to be dumbfounded by those who use His name as though they do recognize His existence.
For readers who are professing believers that fail to uphold His name with awe in their choice of language, I only ask that you’re increasingly cognizant of the misuse that may have become second nature. Not necessarily to protect my (not-so) virgin ears from hearing, but to protect yourself. If using His name in vain has become habitual, how does your mindset make the switch when actually addressing Him in prayer or speaking of Him in conversation? How has our cultural abuse of misusing His name hardened your heart towards using it yourself? I offend Him on a second by second basis as I intentionally, or unintentionally, break from focus on Him to focus on my flesh, but for whatever gracious reason this offense falls at the bottom of my pursuit towards holiness bucket list. There are so many ways we share in sinning against Him, let this simple, yet grievous, one be recognized, addressed, and diminished.