Now that I’ve officially sailed out and gotten involved in a discussion about taking the Lord’s name in vain, I feel that I am rather obligated to say something else . . . lest anyone infer things about what I meant. As I cruised through the comment section I began to be a bit afraid that perhaps I had misjudged my audience.
Quite honestly, I read the comments all in a lump so I hope I’m not being too pointed about any one particular person. I don’t actually have any one person in mind. But the vibe I was getting was that actually this is a crowd comprised of a lot of people who perhaps need to loosen up a smidgeon. Yes, as I said before, I know for a fact that there are people out there who need to tighten it up. But then again . . . as my father is so fond of saying . . . there’s a ditch on both sides of the road. And at the risk of now appearing to be obnoxiously contrarian, I am now about to turn and say a word to the other ditch.
There’s a very real danger of getting downright pharisaical about this. The impulse to fence the law is as old as dirt – and Christ was always rather pointed in His rebukes of this practice. God gave us the law, and that was good enough. We don’t need to embellish it, add to it, fancy it up, or make it too complicated. Thinking up numerous ways in which we could obliquely take the Lord’s name in vain (and thus be guilty of great transgression) falls straight into that category. God said not to take His name in vain. So don’t. Don’t use His name flippantly. But also don’t start fencing the law and drawing a wide, wide circle around what could possibly be construed as His name. “Heavens” is not His name. “By golly” is not His name. “Word” is not His name. “Man” is not His name. “Goodness” is not His name. Don’t get all wound up about those.
In the beginning was the Word. The Word was God. But, at the risk of getting complicated, “word” is also a word that we use in other ways. We don’t need to put a moratorium on the word “word” unless we’re prepared to ban it from regular speech altogether in case of accidental misuse. And this of course quickly spirals out of control. We are also told that Jesus is the Way. And I truly hope that no one would argue that we can’t say “no way!” Jesus is that Truth . . . but we can all say “that’s the truth” without having to repent of commandment-breaking.
Basically all I’m saying is that once you start down that road it quickly gets ridiculous. And that is actually totally detrimental to protecting God’s name . . . turning the commandment into a ludicrous, legalistic rule is what will make everyone roll their eyes at you and laugh at the whole subject.