Updated: Feb 9, 2019
Do you remember those Magic Eye 3-D pictures? You know, the ones that you stare at forever seeing essentially nothing until all of a sudden everything “pops” and you see the hidden 3-D picture inside it? The thing is, try as you might, before you actually see the 3-D picture, you can’t even imagine what the hidden picture might look like. You can’t force yourself to see it, explain it to anyone else, or even really understand it when other people try to explain it to you. You may even feel like others are making it up. Sunday was one of those 3-D “pop” moments for me. When Jason explained the third commandment, something popped inside me. For most of my life I felt like I had refrained from “taking the Lord’s name in vain” – that is until Sunday.
On Sunday, Jason showed me that my interpretation had been too shallow. On the surface keeping the third commandment meant not swearing or more specifically not swearing using God’s name. But Jason went on to say that when we do hurtful things in the name of God, it is taking the Lord’s name in vain. Wait… What?
Sadly, when you start to think about it, taking the Lord’s name in vain seems to be a revered tradition of the Christian faith. The Crusades, or “Holy Wars,” began as way to recapture Jerusalem from Muslims and deteriorated into acts of violence where killing Muslims, Jews or even “heretical” Christians was an act of merit – a way to make up for past sins. During the crusades many “converted” to Christianity only at the tip of a sword. The Salem Witch Trials saw many innocents put to death under false accusations that they were working for the devil. In his speech at Wurzburg, even Adolf Hitler used God to warrant his actions when he said: “In this hour I would ask of the Lord God only this: that He would give His blessing to our work… and that He may ever give us the courage to do the right.” We might take some comfort in the thought that these extreme behaviors are anomalies and surely couldn’t happen today. However, taking the Lord’s name in vain is so intrinsic to the fabric of our Christian history that we may fail to recognize the patterns that are still present.
In order to recognize these, we must look at the commonalities of the past. What do the Crusades, Salem Witch Trials and Hitler have in common? In each case there were professing Christians who twisted the words of scripture to justify suppressing others for their own gain. When we twist the words of the Bible to use them for our own purposes, we hurt the way people view God. As God’s ambassadors, the world learns about God through our actions. When we are selfish, deceitful and arrogant, the world believes those things are true of God. When we are condemning, God is viewed as a great condemner. When we oppress others, God becomes oppressive to those who have no other knowledge of Him. When we selectively invoke the command for submission only when it secures our own place of authority, we are harming the name of God.
When we look at the way that Jesus handled the woman caught in adultery, we can see how we are to act. According to the law, Jesus would have been correct to condemn the woman. She had clearly broken the eighth commandment. Not only that, even as he declares her sentence, HE being sinless, could have been the one to cast the first stone. But he doesn’t. He instead offers compassion and forgiveness. How often have I withheld compassion in favor of judgment? Withheld forgiveness in favor of rules? When I look at my life, it can be so subtle. Too often I read the scripture as it suits me. I twist the words to best fit my own needs. I may call out another for using their wealth for their own gain rather than for the will of God while secretly coveting all their wealth affords them. I may judge someone for missing church and failing to keep the Sabbath holy while breaking the command not to bear false witness as I gossip about their motivation. This twisting of scripture is so prevalent and accepted in our society that until I really stop to examine what I am doing, it can easily go unnoticed. You see, we are not called to “Live the King’s rules” or “Believe the King’s judgment,” but to daily, weekly, and yearly Share the King’s redemption. How can I do the third if I am so preoccupied with the first two?
My view of myself and my understanding of how God has called me to live has “popped.”
I can see more clearly how I have twisted Scripture at times so that my actions have hurt the cause of Christ. The times I have used God’s own word to hurt His name and His cause are now three-dimensional.
Here is the interesting thing about those 3-D pictures. Once you see the picture in 3-D, it is difficult to un-see it. In fact, once you see one picture in 3-D, it becomes easier to see others. There is a trick to it. You can’t look at the surface of the picture. You have to look closer and deeper as though you are looking beyond it to what is underneath. I pray the same would be true of my faith. Now that my perspective has changed in this one area, I pray it would never return to the shallow perspective I had before. I hope God will continue to show me more depths where I can grow and mature so that I can more clearly reflect Him.