Honor the Name
- Reflect on what it means to obey the third commandment.
- Wonder into the story of Peter's denial.
- Consider our own use and misuse of God's name.
The story of Peter's denial is a striking instance of the misuse and dishonoring of God's name. Peter, who has vowed to protect his master, has the courage to follow Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest. But there in the shadows, as it becomes more and more clear that Jesus is in deep trouble, he begins to give in to fear.
A servant girl looks closely at Peter's face in the firelight and recognizes him as one of Jesus' disciples. He denies it, saying, "I don't know what you are talking about"---a step toward distancing himself from the name of Jesus. A little later, she sees him again,and remarks to others standing around that he's one of Jesus' disciples. Again, Peter denies it.
Now the fear begins to mount, his pulse is racing, and there's a knot in his stomach. Soon others join in on the game of recognition. "You're a Galilean too, you must be one of them." Now Peter is in full fear mode. Heart pounding, he begins to call down curses on himself and swears by God that "I don't know this man you're talking about."
That's when the rooster crows.
The biggest mistake we make with the third commandment is to trivialize it. Too often it simply becomes a rule about swearing, while the real focus is on inspiring awe at the very name of God and sensing the horror of dishonoring it.
Certainly throwing out the name "Jesus Christ" to express our surprise or disappointment, or "God damn it" when we hit our thumb with a hammer, is a misuse of God's name. By using the name in such a trivial way, we're actually saying it means little to us personally, and we are implicitly denying any real relationship.
But the greatest danger is that we use God's name for our own purposes. In Peter's case it was to protect himself from danger. Rather than honoring God's name he tried to disassociate himself from it. There are other insidious ways to use God's name for our own purposes. For example, I might want to seem very pious and godly in a certain group of people so I might change my typical habits of speech. At every opportunity I might slip in "the Lord willing," or "thanks be to God," but what I'm really after is not expressing my true thoughts and feelings but making a religious impression.
In the same way, Christians have used God's name to strengthen their political or social agenda. God is on our side, God backs our political party, God fights for our cause. When we take the name of God for our own use, we "misuse" it and ultimately bring dishonor on God's name.
Positively, the commandment invites us to always use the name of God "reverently, praising God in everything I say or do." In other words, we honor God most when we live lives that reflect his will and purpose.
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