Frankly, My Dear...

Profanity and obscenity regularly lace public discourse these days. We hear it in music, television, and film, and have come a long way from Rhett Butler's last line in GWTW. It shows up in the pool hall and on the street corner. The boardroom, too. And, increasingly, from the mouths of politicians and elected officials. Nixon had lots of "expletives deleted" in the transcripts of his private Oval Office conversations-- but even he kept that kind of language out of his speeches.

Yesterday's Washington Post had an article about evangelical reaction to President Trump's rather frequent use of the word "g-damn.” (  They've noticed-- and they don't like it. Obscenity is one thing (references to bodily functions and sex), and isn't appreciated either, but profanity is taking the LORD's name in vain and breaks one of the Ten Commandments.

A leading Trump supporter, Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, says that it isn't enough cause for him to stop voting for him, but he wishes the President would watch his mouth when it comes to that particular word.

It raises an important issue, though. Exactly what does the Third Commandment mean, and how is it broken? What does it mean to take God's name in vain?

Well, God is very protective about His name. Just as John Proctor was in Arthur Miller's play, "The Crucible"-- and you are. It stands for who He is. We are to be careful with its use. It is a glorious name (Psalm 8:1, 111:9, Matthew 6:9) and also a saving name (Matthew 1:21, Acts 4:12, Romans 10:13 ).

Remember in the old television series, "Bewitched," when Samantha's mother, Endora, repeatedly mispronounced Darren's name? It was a way to show disrespect and to try to belittle him in Samantha's eyes. I used to do that with the name of one of Audrey's old boyfriends, my chief rival for her affections. It was all in good-natured fun, but she eventually grew tired of my doing it. I was misusing his name, and he really was a quite nice guy after all.

Actually, there are many ways that we misuse the name of God--

  1. Saying "g-damn" certainly qualifies--as does saying "Jesus Christ" in anger and when not         talking to Him or about Him.
         Our words form a billboard picture of our heart (Matthew 12:34), so if we talk like that                   our heart must be dark, too.
         But I don't think that saying those words out loud is the only way--or even the                                  primary way --that we do it.

    2. When we say the name and mean nothing of it, it is merely conversation-filler. An                            exclamation-- like the ubiquitous OMG!

     3. When we misquote Him-- attaching His name and credibility to things He does not                          endorse and has nothing to do with. Preachers (like me) have to be very careful here, as                we regularly purport to speak for God-- publicly. It is so easy to confuse our own ideas and           positions with His will, and then to pass them on as the same.

     4. When we use that name to market products or make money at with their appeals: "God               wants you to sit down and write a check to this ministry."

     5. Politicians and those who support them must never claim to speak for God or suggest                  that He would approve of a particular party platform or candidate. Christians should                     certainly be involved in politics and hold sincere convictions about the issues of the day,               but God is neither Republican or Democrat. He has His own platform and it is very clear.               It's found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and other places in the gospels (like           Luke 4:18-19 and Matthew 25:31-46).

Yes, I wish the President and other leaders would refrain from denigrating God's name in their speeches. It doesn't speak well of their heart, and it does nothing to elevate the use of good language in front of our children. But, more importantly, I wish that those who govern us (or want to) would truly honor God in the things that they do and the way that they lead.
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