The Second Commandment
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God
so that we do not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie or deceive by His name,
but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.
I have to admit my ears are still quite sensitive to the OMG. My internal monolog is often Captain America saying “language” to the mocking of Iron Man, but not having been in the ice for 60 years, I don’t actually say it. When I teach this commandment to the young kids the question I often ask them is which is worse: OMG or your favorite scatological four letter word? And at a very simple level I believe the answer is OMG. Scatological words are crude, but they are often appropriate and they are not cheapening anyone other than yourself, which is why your mother would correctly tell you to avoid them.
It is that cheapening someone other than yourself that I wish to focus on here. The Jews were so afraid of this commandment that they wouldn’t even write Yahweh (the transliteration of the ancient name). When they wrote it, and then read it, they wrote it as a symbol, and simply spoke LORD. Which is why in your bibles you will see sometimes Lord and other times LORD. That all caps LORD is the name, Yahweh. That is my Captain America sensitivity taken to the extreme. But I also think it might be majoring in the minors. Because what God does when he reveals to us his name is to invite us into a personal relationship with him. He is no longer a stranger. Neither is he Mr. LORD or some other title that polite society used to afix to acquaintences. He is our Father. He is Jesus, who taught us to pray Our Father. He is the abiding Spirit. Father, Brother, Spiritual Friend. That is why we have the name.
Now there is a current example of the use of a name that is meaningful to ponder. Hunter Biden used his physical Father’s name it appears in all kinds of ways. He seems to have been okay invoking Biden to conjure up money (the core of witchcraft). He seems to have promised all kinds of wonders would flow from having a Biden involved (lies and deceit). And by misusing his Father’s name he has placed his dad and the rest of his family in the situation of either having to publicly abandon him, step out of public life, or defend his indefensible behavior, undercutting one of the main thrusts of Joe Biden as a common guy who gets how bad this looks. Would Joe have done anything for his son if he had asked? Most likely yes, or I should modify that with anything honest. But that would have required being open to a personal relationship, not just a one way abuse of the name.
We are like Hunter. We have a Father, a Brother, a Close Friend, in a high position, the highest. And we have the choice how we want to use that name given us in Baptism. Do we abuse the relationship and cheapen the name? Calling down indisriminate curses, calling on God as our witness to whatever drug deal we have cooking, attempting to manipulate our situations by invoking God? Or maybe even promining in His name what God never promises by shading the truth for willing ears who want to hear? Or do we call upon his name in every trouble? Do we recognize that the good of His name is the good of our name? Do we pray, praise and give thanks, which are means of living into that relationship with God, our Father, Jesus, and the abiding Spirit?
Yes we could simply fear God, worried that every OMG could be followed by a lightning bolt – a public abandonment. But we are invited to know God as love. To know that God has placed his name on us. It is our name too. Do we really want to cheapen our name and that relationship?