Reese Witherspoon, the “Legally Blonde” star, recently appeared on Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show, “Chelsea,” where the guests talked about faith and death. I didn’t see the show, but saw a news clip. Witherspoon discussed the role of faith as she grew up in the South, her Episcopalian roots, and her disdain for using religion to promote hate. She commented that many people “use parts of the Bible to express their intolerance and their hate and they manipulate it.” Chelsea then asked, “Is there any way you feel that religion has held you back?” Somewhat bashfully Witherspoon recalled, “When I first started, when I was really, really young, it really bothered me taking the Lord’s name in vain. Because that’s a commandment! And it really bothered me!” Then she added, “And now I’ve grown as an artist and I understand that expression is a whole different thing.” “So, what do you understand more?” Handler pressed. “That it doesn’t mean as much as it did?” “No, it still bothers me,” Witherspoon responded with a laugh.
I’m afraid Witherspoon is like a lot of other folks, even some Christians, who do things the Bible condemns, but find a way to justify it. Taking God’s name in vain is pervasive in our culture today. “God,” “Jesus,” and “Lord” are often used in a flippant, frivolous, or even facetious manner. His name has become a by-word and an exclamation of shock, surprise, or amazement. What seems to escape so many that using God’s name in an off-handed way is disrespectful and profane. Too often we hear young Christians exclaim, “Oh my God!” OMG is frequently texted, tweeted or posted on Facebook as an expression of delight, alarm, or astonishment. I wonder if they even realize they are using the name of God in an unholy manner.
God was very clear in the Old Testament concerning a misuse and abuse of His name. One of the ten commandments in Exodus 20:7 is “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” God’s name is holy and hallowed. “You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Exodus 22:32). It is summed up with God’s command to Israel in Leviticus 11:44. “For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.”
However, the name of God is more than just a name. Or title. Or designation. It speaks of His divine nature. His character. His personality. His attributes. His Deity. Profaning the “name of God” is more than using “Yahweh” in a flippant, vain, or unholy way. It is a disposition toward Deity. An unholy attitude toward the divine “God-family.” Jesus is called “the holy one of God” (Luke 4:34). The expression “name of Jesus Christ” is referenced 75 times in the New Testament. He is to be honored, respected, and glorified. The Spirit is called “holy” and He can be profaned, despised and insulted (Hebrews 10:29).
Jesus commanded in His mountain message, “Swear not at all” (Matthew 5:33-37). The Bible writer James repeated this prohibition, “My brethren, do not swear…” (James 5:12). Profane people are identified among those who are immoral, unholy and ungodly (1 Timothy 1:8-11). When we speak of Deity in a way that is unbecoming, unholy, or inappropriate we have profaned that which is hallowed. A lack of respect that speaks of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit in crude, calloused, or light-minded manner is not in keeping with our call to holiness.
OMG is not just an enraptured expression, but reflects our lack of respect for the holy name of Jehovah God. It should bother us enough to quit profaning His sacred name. Peter reminds us of God’s desire for his people. But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:15-16). – By Ken Weliever