When I was a kid, I always thought that "taking the Lord's name in vain" meant saying "Oh my God," you know, in some exasperated way.
Sometimes, people would say it also meant "Oh my Gosh" because really "Gosh" is just two letters away from "God" so they mean the same thing. (Incidentally, this greatly reduced the number of expressions an exasperated child could say... some I've since found acceptable: Oh my hairy, Oh my heck, Oh my stars and bananas...)
The older I've gotten, the more I realize my child's heart missed a few things.
For instance, in times of extreme distress, I've been known to say things under my breath, words that slip out like a whisper and fill the depths of despair.
It's not vain, not by a long shot.
But what I also missed is that "taking the Lord's name in vain" can mean doing or saying something that grieves the holy spirit, but claiming to have done it because "God said" or "The Spirit led me." (I'm talking about things that blatantly go against what the Word of God says here.)
Isn't this the very kind of thing that causes other Christians to stumble? That makes non-Christians run away from us, refusing to even consider what we say is true?
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
~ Brennan Manning
I'm not talking about sin. We all sin. We all mess up. We all make mistakes. And God, in his ever-loving, all-knowing, bigger-than-we-are way, takes us back, with open arms...because he is grace-filled and full of love.
But it's when we keep going, in our self-righteous, high-horse way--using spiritual power to manipulate and control people, all the while crediting God for those choices--that I believe we risk taking His name in vain.
Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure God wants credit for our ignorance.
Treating people in a way that grieves the holy spirit, but telling those same people to lean not on their own understanding...Using the Bible as a beard, something to hide behind, to disguise our poor choices, to cover ourselves and make ourselves sound holy when all the while our actions say "God, we really don't need you. We only want to hear the parts that make us happy. We want to keep doing what we're doing because we like it. It makes us feel powerful. It makes us feel in control."
And God has to turn away. Sad. Broken. Horrified. That in a world that so desperately needs Jesus, we, as Christians, have chosen to live our lives in vain. We've chosen to veer off the high road to puff ourselves up, to claim to be something we aren't--intelligent, spiritual, worthy.
Because, my friends, none of us are. We are all broken. We are all works in progress. We are all in need of a Savior.
Where is the grace that Jesus died for? Where is love that covers all? Why must we be so consumed with being "right" all the time that we fail to see how very wrong we are?
Don't talk about a Jesus you refuse to get to know. Don't hide behind his words, his sacrifice, his salvation. You either believe him or you don't, but cherry-picking the Bible to suit your latest argument--it's the worst kind of offense.
What I know is this. God is good. And merciful. And kind. He keeps no record of wrongs. He has a plan and a purpose for each one of us. He loves us, in spite of us.
And the second we start putting our faith in people, we will be let down.
The only One who deserves our devotion is the One we have to strive never to grieve...