Since when is God not God?
The Spice Box
by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
Oh, dear, I am going to be in trouble again! Some folks are going to think I’m being irreverent, others will say I’m irrelevant—but maybe some who cringe every time they hear a Christian exclaim, “O god!” or “Omigawd!” as I do, will want to cheer!
That’s what this “Spice Box” is all about—about the way some Christians salt and pepper their conversation with careless references to the God we serve, never seeming to realize the lack of congruity between their speech habits and their Christian witness. The habit of using such references for emphasis or to express surprise in everyday speech is pervasive among Christians and non-Christians alike, and shows up even on some children’s television programming. It rarely appears to be considered other than a common slang ejaculation, certainly not profanity.
I really doubt that God agrees.
The Lord considered proper reverence in referencing his name to be so important that he included it in among the Ten Commandments: You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name (Exodus 20:7 NIV). And Jesus corroborated the validity of the command (Matthew 5:34-35 NIV): But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.
Yet some say, “Oh, come on—I don’t mean anything by it; it’s just an expression!”
And others, “I don’t mean ‘capital G’ God. It’s just something everybody says. I don’t take God’s name in vain!”
Can that be true? How many gods do we have? The Scriptures say there is only one God, and none other beside him, and that we are not to use his name carelessly. If we call upon the name of God, to whom else could a Christian be referring?
Probably most of us have used the name of God carelessly, at one time or another, so this column should not be taken as finger pointing. But we all need to reconsider how we use his name or speak of him in our ordinary conversation. Do we evaluate the jokes and stories we tell to make certain any off-hand references to God do not reflect irreverence toward him? Does the way we live honor his name and the important place he holds in our lives? How would a non-Christian understand some of our “toss-away” lines, and those supposedly meaningless exclamations that involve God’s name? How many other Christians are shocked or wounded by our seemingly irreverent attitudes and conversations? Does it matter?
And what does God think about it? Did he really mean it when he said the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name?
One of the things that bothers me is that it often appears that Christians are more concerned about careless usage of language relating to the devil and to hell than they are about irreverent or careless references to the Almighty God we serve. We seldom hear Christians use the name of the devil or hell as slang or swear words and, in fact, many appear to expect to be struck with lightning if they use the terms “devil” and “hell” at all, even in a religious context. Why should that be? Who’s the boss around here, anyhow?
There is but one God. His name is holy, to be honored by his people. As Christians, let us so honor him, in word, in conversation, in our actions and our relationships, by upholding his holy name before the world.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1 NIV).