Skip to comments.The Rev. Samuel Edwards: "On Abusing the Name of the Lord"
Posted on 04/07/2006 5:48:23 PM PDT by sionnsar
As readers will recall, the Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter in Alabama has been preaching a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments. Here is his next in the series:
Sermon on Passion Sunday (2006)There can be no doubt that of all the Commandments, this one is quite possibly the one taken the most lightly. May we truly heed the admonitions in this sermon and honor rather than abuse the Name of the Lord.
Countdown to Godliness
Sermon VIII. On Abusing the Name of the Lord
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his Name in vain.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
The commandment that we come to consider today explicitly forbids the abuse of the Name of God. It says that we are not to take in vain to use lightly or frivolously or emptily or meaninglessly or deceitfully the Divine Name in any of its forms. In one stroke, it makes it clear that neither blasphemy nor perjury is acceptable behavior in any of Gods people. (Perjury lying under oath is a form of blasphemy, for it involves telling a lie in the Name of One in whom there is no lie, Who is Truth Himself.)
When the Apostle James comments on this commandment [James 5:12], he says, Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay, lest ye fall into condemnation. In this, he is echoing the words of Jesus himself [cf. Matthew 5:33-37], who as the Lawgiver knows exactly what the Law means and clearly intends that we be as good as our word, or more accurately, that we be as good as the word of him who is the Word of God. We are to be people of truth, who can be relied upon to tell the truth even when not formally under oath. The only other option is to be people of the lie, to borrow the late M. Scott Pecks phrase.
The Hebrews, like almost all ancient people, recognized that a name was more than a mere label of convenience, like the license plate on a car. Someones true name was so closely connected with his self that to speak his name was held in some sense to make him present. To know someones true name was to have intimate access to, even power over, him. Thus, there was considerable reticence about sharing ones true name with strangers and when it was done, it was a gesture of trust that implied or established a covenant relationship among those with whom it was shared.
We might think and say that this is strange or quaint, but the fact is that, at the most basic level of our intuition, we still know that it is so. Centuries of the exposure of Western civilization to the toxin of nominalist philosophy have not been able to wipe this truth from the human heart. We might say otherwise, but our actions will give us the lie. The way we behave makes it clear that we really do think that naming the person makes him present in some sense.
The fact is that name changes not simply changes of title and address, but changes of name are a regular part of changes in a persons status, role, and public identity. We see them taking place in everything from accessions to royal and papal thrones to marrying and unmarrying to our children refusing to answer any longer to their childhood nicknames.
What about speak of the devil that common phrase used when someone about whom weve just been talking shows up? That is shorthand for speak of the devil, and he will appear. (If that be so, how much more is it true of the Lord himself?)
Some of you who are my age and older may remember a political comedy LP from about 1962 called The First Family. It gently parodied life in the Kennedy White House. One of the skits concerned a summit conference attended by such contemporary figures as Castro, DeGaulle, and Chiang Kai Shek. It was lunchtime, and the President decided to send out for sandwiches. As he went around the table taking orders, he came to Generalissimo Chiang. After taking his order, JFK asked, Would you like that with mayo? Chiang instantly interrupted with, Please not to mention that name!!!
People also still regularly refuse to use the names of persons who have occasioned them pain or fear or other unpleasantness or whose existence for whatever reason they regret. Franklin Roosevelt wasnt the first President to be called, that man in the White House, and barring the Lords return before the end of his term, George W. Bush wont be the last. Closer to home, there is a onetime bishop who is regularly not spoken of around here by name.
Whatever we say, we know deep down in our gut that to speak the name is to invoke the presence. The knowledge seems to be hard-wired into our being. It has some clear and perhaps frightening implications for our behavior.
Think of this phrase we often hear used for emphasis in ordinary conversation these days: I swear to God . This abuse is made even more unpleasant by the fact that almost as often as it is used, it is prefixed to an obvious exaggeration, or a mere opinion, or a juicy bit of gossip, or an outright lie. What would happen if he in whose name the assertion is made were to manifest himself and demand an accounting in the light of his truth? Thinking on this ought to be enough to give one pause, yet so often people do not stop talking long enough to think.
It may be the case that for many people, such vain, empty abuses of the Lords Name have become so common that they are no longer bothered by them. No doubt, this lack of offense leads to a lot of self-congratulation about how tolerant we have become. If true, however, it is a dangerous, corrosive, fraudulent, and ultimately dehumanizing sort of tolerance that is founded not on the love of God and neighbor but upon laziness and luxury and surrender to the overall coarsening of public (not to mention private) discourse in our society. After all, if we will emptily, vainly, and profanely abuse the Name of him who made us in his image, then what will we not be willing to do to ourselves and to others? On what grounds will we not abuse their names and their persons? To use the Divine Name in vain is to expose our own vanity. It doesnt damage God; it damages us. It is a virtual declaration that there is no God, which we are assured [cf Psalm 10] is what the fool saith in his heart, and is the accompaniment of being corrupt and abominable in [our] doings.
When, on the other hand, we genuinely reverence the Name of God, not only with our lips, but in our lives, we enhance our humanity we become more fully the persons we are designed by him to be. To be sure, there is more to honoring God than the mere avoidance of speaking his Name carelessly and emptily, but there is certainly not less to it than that. A settled habit of reverence and reticence toward the Holy Name is a necessary component of the foundation of a holy life. It is also a necessary component of the respect for our fellow man without which no society of any kind can long endure.
Here and now, as is always true when we gather before the Lords Table, we speak his Name and we invoke his presence among us. As he has promised, he comes to us when we call upon him. He is, as we are told [cf Hebrews 12:29], a consuming fire. For those who know him, who serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear, his fire consumes our sins and refines us, making us participants in Christ whom we here consume, in whose Name we are restored to health and raised to glory. Let us approach that great gift and so receive it that we may become worthy to bear that Name which he shares with us.
"After all, if we will emptily, vainly, and profanely abuse the Name of him who made us in his image, then what will we not be willing to do to ourselves and to others? On what grounds will we not abuse their names and their persons?"
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.