I just addressed an issue with the faculty and staff at our church and school. It was the result of hearing God’s name used with increasing casualness as a matter of routine. Let me give you an example. I just returned to my office after walking to the cafeteria for a cup of ice. During that short trip, I heard the phrase, “Oh, my God!” three times and “God!” twice, by students ranging from elementary, to middle school, to high school.
Lest someone jump to an accusation about large Christian schools, South Florida “issues”, neo-evangelicalism, or some other rationalization…, I will state for the record that I can’t think of a pastor’s conference I’ve attended in recent years where I did not hear at least one example of God’s name being used disrespectfully in ways ranging from “Oh my God” to “My God” and more. I went to one of the most conservative “fundamentalist” schools in the world for my undergraduate work and routinely heard the expression “Bless God” as a curse or at least a colloquialism during sermons my entire time there by the highest levels of leadership from the Senior Pastor on down.
Devout Jews refuse to even write the word, “God” thinking it too casual for Someone so sacred and significant. Instead, they will cite him as “G-d”. In Biblical days, Scribes, who made copies of scriptures prior to the printing press, were required to use a fresh quill each time that they began writing the name of God. They also took a ceremonial bath prior to the first stroke. At the conclusion of each stroke of the quill that was required to write the name of God, they would repeat the bathing and take a new quill. It served as a constant reminder of the majesty and authority of the One Whose words they were copying.
Of course, we know that one of the Ten Commandments was a directive that we should not use the name of God “in vain” – meaning without thought, casually, commonly. In the New Testament, when Peter was denying Christ and actively trying to identify with those who were murdering Jesus, he did so by cursing and using God’s name in vain.
Using God’s name disrespectfully is not limited to the “mother of all curses” – G**D***. It is any use of his name (or in my opinion, a close derivative of it) without reverence, thought, respect or care.
You might ask why I would even raise such an issue when there are many other “problems” in our culture, schools, churches and communities. The presence of other sins does not negate any sin. To do so is a tired and cliche’ tactic that any high school debate student can identify in a nanosecond.
I would also suggest that when one gains an awareness of and respect for the Holiness and Place of God in our lives, other matters of questionable practice and conduct will more readily fall into place. Will a person who loves and honors and respects God enough to treat His name carefully be more or less inclined to acknowledge His authority in matters of ethics, morality and integrity? Indeed, acknowledging God’s Sovereign Authority in our lives will lead to a better life of straighter direction. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Can a man have a polluted heart even if he doesn’t use God’s name carelessly? Absolutely. Now let me ask the opposite. Can a man have a pure heart if he uses God’s name carelessly? In fact the Scripture tells us that out of the mouth flows the content of the heart. (Matthew 12:33-37)
So in closing, may I ask that each of us who have influence over the training of our young people, speak before audiences privately and publicly, lead our families and converse one-on-one take some time and examine the importance of keeping the names of God and Jesus Christ sacred, carefully used and thoughtfully assigned? It’s part of the development of a worldview that is first and foremost about loving God first, best and most.