By Chris Thompson
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
In the ultra-conservative home I grew up in, there were many words or phrases that were off limits for my brother and I to speak, much less even think. It’s as if my mom knew what was going through our tiny minds, and would blister our backsides or wash our mouth out with a bar of soap in a moments notice. I can tell you first hand that if you’ve ever tasted a bar of Dial or Ivory, you’ll bite your tongue come the next time you’d want to speak a word from the unwritten, but well-known, list of filth.
The soap was just the beginning of the punishment, depending on the severity of the words. First there were cuss words, then words that meant what cuss words meant, and then the worst category of all. You did not, without expecting sudden and harsh punishment, utter anything that would use the Lord’s name in any other context than prayer, worship, praise, evangelism, or study. This could have been one of the worst offenses in my home that brought a punishment on a level with the deepest physical pain that could have been carried out upon me and my brother.
See, in the early 1980s, the list of official cuss words included many that are now part of our everyday culture and currently liberally used on television as common language. The H-word, the B-word, the D-word, especially the G-D words, were all in the cuss word category with the S-word and F-word. The banned language in my home growing up even went beyond this list to include words of like meaning such as heck, H-E-double hockey sticks, and dang-it. It was well known that this foul language would not be tolerated in our home, and as to the reason why, we all knew. It was because “Who we are is shown by what we say.”
Now comes the worst of the worst category of all the intolerable language. If you were to refer to God or Jesus, you best have proper reason. These are not words, but rather names of the One who has saved us from our sin and He alone is the only way to receive salvation. So the phrase ‘Oh My God’ in a moment of exclamation for anything other than speaking directly to our Father in heaven was not only discouraged, but also was punished severely.
In today’s world, the acronym OMG would also fall into the list of filth in the home I grew up in, and is actually banned from the mouths of my children. Yes, my mother was strict when it came to God’s name in our home, a lesson I vow to pass on. Times can change all they want, but they have absolutely no relevance on this universal truth.
It was not just the words, but the respect. I am a child of God, a creation of His, a follower of Jesus Christ, and but a servant to Him. Who am I to speak His name is a disparaging manner? Psalms 105:3 tells us “Glory in his holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice, who seek the LORD.” (NKJV).
Why is it that the name of God and Jesus have become worldly, simple, regular words with no more respect than any other? Maybe the Holy Spirit gets off easy, as I rarely hear anyone in disbelief say, “Oh My Holy Ghost.” I understand the doctrine of the Trinity, and know this would be considered one and the same, but it is no less an uncommon statement.
My parents gave me my name and it’s nothing but an identifier between myself and anyone else not identified by my name. In my name, I can do nothing, nor can anyone else. You know nothing about me by just hearing my name. Jesus is so much different. Just for a moment, think about the name of Jesus as only a word, putting all doctrine aside for a moment. Feel the power in the name of Jesus? I do.
Why would I care so much about this topic? Because it is the name of our LORD we are talking about. I’m not even talking about God himself yet, but simply His name. He is so holy that even His name is sacred. It’s respect for the one who created me, the one who saved me from an eternity in a lake of fire while gnashing my teeth. It’s respect for the one who commanded me to respect His name, and Who is there for me every time I call.