Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Devotion 6.7.17

The Second Commandment - You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

Robert Maplethorpe was a photographer who used the black and white medium to present items in direct opposition to one another and call it art.  He did get his photographs placed in large museums as many people considered his work stunning.  Then one day, some years ago, Maplethorpe did the unthinkable by placing a black and white photograph of a cross placed in a large jar of urine.  His art made a statement that created outrage by those offended by the work or created conversation by the art world about its "daring," which they would say it the object of art to sometimes say the unsaid. 

In the Christian world, this act is a direct violation of the Second Commandment, "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God."   Blasphemy against the Trinity, such as an act like this, demonstrates complete disrespect for the very name of Christ.  The Small Catechism focuses on using God's name and the misuse of God's name which includes making a statement attacking God and mocking God. The Small Catechism speaks in definite terms of the use of God's name, where it is permissible, and where the believer needs to be aware of how we can misuse God's name.  We have creatively found ways to misuse God's name and much of it is either in direct opposition of God's name (profanity) or a sin to perhaps deceive using God's name (swearing an oath or something like it to convince a person you aren't being dishonest when, in fact, you are lying).  It also includes mockery of the Trinity.

In reality, I am no better than Maplethorpe when I disobey this commandment. Say I "swear" to something just to win the point in a discussion (Peter denying Christ)?  Say "geez" when I really know in my heart what I mean?  We have learned various and creative ways to misuse the name of God, but they have been around a long time because the catechism cites various Old and New Testament passages that speak to the use of God's name.

These examples, though, speak to the amazing irony that exists with the Christian faith and the very God whose name we are to honor and not misuse.  Other faiths have dramatic and severe punishment when you misuse their god's name or blaspheme their god.  Yet in Christianity, the very sacrifice of God's Son and the instrument used to murder Him, the cross, is the source of forgiveness we obtain for such misuse.  So, God forgives us for our misuse of His name, and as in the Lord's Prayer, we forgive those who trespass against us.  As hard as it is, we forgive the Maplethorpes of this world as we, too, are forgiven for our violations of the commandments, the Second and others. 

We note that we live in two kingdoms as well.  The heavenly and the earthly realm.  There are those inside the faith who will misuse God's name and those outside the faith who will as well.  As Paul notes in 1 Corinthians, we judge and admonish those inside the church for their sins, but we leave those outside the faith to God, whose name we revere and honor.  (v 12 - 13)  Yet through it all, we go to God for forgiveness when we fail and we forgive those, inside or outside the faith, for their sins against our God and against us, including people who profane the very name of God through whatever chosen medium. 

We pray that we constantly honor God's name by how we use it, and we pray that God forgive us when we don't use His name appropriately.  We pray that we lift God's name on high in all places and at all times and take seriously the command to honor Him and His name.

Hope Men's Ministry

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