September 10, 2012

In God's Name...

Many people are familiar with the Ten Commandments referenced from the Bible.  I would venture to say that the majority of the advanced modern world (North America, Europe, and other countries that fall into this category) have heard or read or even quoted "thou shalt not kill", "thou shalt not steal", "thou shalt not commit adultery",  and so on the list goes-- or at least some form of these moral guidelines!

Most of us would never cross the line of said morals and do any of these things (commit murder, steal, commit adultery).... most of us.  We think of ourselves as a fairly moral society, respectful of others and clean-living. Yet there is a simple, often overlooked, law... a command that is of foundational and paramount importance... that is being violated most frequently by "the most moral" of Christians.  It is the simple command:  "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain..." (Exodus 20:7-KJV).  In the NIV it is quoted, "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God..."  This command is repeated again in Deuteronomy 5:11.

"You think good Christians are the ones who most frequently swear and use God's name in vain?" I can hear you argue. "Well, I've heard many of them say that even using words close to God's name, like 'jeez' or 'gosh' is still misuse of God's name. They don't even get close to swearing!"

No, the people I'm talking about don't use God's name as a swear word or exclamation of surprise, anger, pain or shock.  These people (who would never dream of swearing, cussing, using expletives, or "taking God's name in vain") are constantly "misusing" God's name by using "God" as the rubber-stamp approval to do and say whatever they want!

So often someone will say "God told me to..." to add a spiritual supremacy to what they are saying or doing.  They use God's name, His will, His "leading" to impress you with their spiritual credentials.  This is manipulation and control, using God's name to persuade you that they know best and you should listen to them.  This let's them off the hook of personal responsibility because, after all, they are just doing/saying what God told them to.  This is misuse of God's name!  Along the same thread, so many well-meaning Christians will express personal opinions and preferences as "God's plan" or "God's intent" or "God's will", and then force these opinions (their own interpretations of scripture) and preferences ("Bible" standards) onto others as nothing less than "God's way".  Such blatant misuse of God's name!!!

Many spiritual leaders (preachers, teachers, elders, parents, counselors) will flash their "spiritual credentials" using God's name and/or their theological training and their years of "godly knowledge and experience" to advance their own agendas, or to put them into a positive light with someone (usually another spiritual leader) they are hoping to impress.  Some examples of this:
  • "Well, I'm the pastor--the Lord's anointed.  Touch not the Lord's anointed"
  • "God put me into this position for a reason!"  
  • "God gave us our parents (pastor, teacher, president...) and governing systems and told us to 'submit to authority'." 
  • "I've had years of Bible training and counseling experience.  You need my help to hear God's voice and know His will for your life."
  • "I've served the Lord for xx years in xxxx ministry(ies). I learned so much through these experiences."
  • "God told me...."  or "God is leading me...."
  • "The cause of Christ (or "the Kingdom of God") will be furthered by (insert whatever grand project is on the agenda)..."
Similar to this, is the use of "God's will or leading (directing)" or "God's voice" to rubber-stamp something that benefits the person/family in a personal way.  Such as moving to live near a married child/grandchild, and making it "God's will" to start a ministry in that place.  There is nothing wrong with living near family, moving for a better job, moving to a more desirable location, going to a certain university, etc.  But using God's name (His will) to add a spiritual aspect to these things, to get approval or acceptance from others, or to persuade (manipulate) someone into agreeing with it (because who wants to argue with "God"?) is definitely a misuse of God's name.  Seriously, if you want to do it, do it!  You don't have to be spiritually superlative about it.

It seems, in my experiences, that God gets a whole lot of blame..... uh, er... credit for things He has very little to do with!!!!  Is what you say and do really bringing glory to God's name?  Is it truly helping others and advancing God's Kingdom, or is it bringing glory to self and advancing personal (or corporate) agendas?

Is it any wonder that the world-at-large looks at Christianity and wants nothing to do with "God"?!?!?!?!  Look at all the damage being done in God's name!!!

Matthew 7:21-23 clearly states, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'  Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!'" (NIV, emphasis mine).

How are you using God's name?  How are you allowing someone else to use "God's name" to control your life?  In the end, we are each individually accountable to GOD for knowing and doing "the will of the Father" in our own lives.