by Colleen Fitzpatrick
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But I say to you, do not swear at all (Matthew 5:34).
Today’s reading takes me back to the second commandment, which I learned as: ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain’.
A more modern version is: ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain’.
Luther’s explanation to this commandment as I learned it is: ‘We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie or deceive by his name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks’.
A more modern version of that is: ‘We are to fear and love God so that we do not use his name superstitiously, or use it to curse, swear, lie or deceive, but call on him in prayer praise and thanksgiving’.
The commandments and explanations speak clearly of what we are taught and what we believe is right and godly. As well as things we are told to avoid, we are encouraged to call on God’s name ‘in every trouble’. God is running a 24/7 call centre just for you and me and promises to get back to us. That’s great customer service.
When we pray, we address God through Jesus – hence, we can sign off using the words ‘in Jesus’ name’. Jesus has told us that whatever we ask God in his name, God will give it to us. We can talk to God and believe that he is listening to our prayers and responding to them. Sometimes God’s response is not what we want or expect. That can be difficult. When that happens to me, I am comforted by a couple of biblical promises. ‘All things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28) and ‘God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13).
One of the other times we can use God’s name is when we need to swear that we are telling the truth. If we do not tell the truth at such a time, we go against God’s wishes.
God does not want us to use God’s name lightly. To my ears, many times when I hear his name invoked or referred to (as in ‘OMG!’, which I understand as an abbreviation of ‘Oh my God’), those using the terms are not really understanding to whom they are referring. I wonder what would happen if, in those circumstances, we started explaining to people what their words mean to us and what God has done for them.
Heavenly Father, thank you that we can call on your name. Please help us use your name in ways that bring you glory. Thank you for listening to our prayers and for your generous responses to them. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.