29 June 2017

Thoughts on the 3rd commandment

When I was growing up, I believed that the third commandment, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain" (Exodus 20:7) principally had something to do with swearing. You know, saying bad words. There were a couple of them that specifically included the words "God" or "Jesus" that I was pretty sure broke the commandment, but some others were murkier. I knew the F-word was bad and probably took God's name in vain but felt a little less clear about some of the others. What did I know? In hindsight, that was a pretty incomplete understanding of the third commandment.

Taking the Lord's name in vain refers to claiming God's name in support on a dishonest vow as well as not treating His name reverently or respectfully. According to the ESV Study Bible notes, "Yahweh is warning Israel against using His name as if it were disconnected from His person, presence, and power."

When I read the Bible, I try to approach each passage with an eye toward how it relates to relationships, both vertical and horizontal (e.g., a relational hermeneutic). When I think of the implications of taking God's name in vain relationally, I think about how we speak of God's name and its implications for relationships.

I have been wondering, what if one of the ways we take the Lord's name in vain has to do with how Christians speak about one another? Too often, our words about other believers fail to honor God. We speak poorly about others who bear the name of Christ when they disappoint us or even when they disagree with us. We tear down rather than build up. We reject biblical principles for relationship while still claiming Christ as Savior. I wonder, if Christ can save us from God's justice by his grace, can he not also save our relationships? If he is able to reconcile us to himself, can he not also reconcile us to one another?

As Christians, let us not take Christ's name in vain in our relationships. Let us believe that he has the power to heal broken relationships, and especially with those who are brothers and sisters in Jesus. Let us practice other-centeredness, always with an eye toward forgiveness, just as we have been forgiven.

Speak evil of no one
avoid quarreling 
be gentle
show perfect courtesy toward all people.
Titus 3:2

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