After yesterday’s post, which had the potential for upsetting all my regular readers and a whole lot more, I thought I’d write about something we can probably all agree on.
Not that this will be a turn-it-off, well-what-a-waste-of-time, “duh” sort of post. Truly, it may require more of me/us than yesterday’s thoughts. We may need to take part in more self-examination than initially meets the eye. To begin, I’ll quote from one of the best original songs Ken Young ever gave the a cappella Church of Christ (unfortunately, I’ve never heard the song sung, and another good one of his has a punctuation error in the title, but that’s beside the point). The song is called “The Name of God,” and I’ve used it as a combination devotional springboard and theory lesson in a couple of classes, and it still comes to mind every few weeks.
Speak the name of God so solemnly.
Speak the name of God in prayer.
In a world so full of profanity
Speak the name of God with care.
I typed those words without looking them up. I’m not sure of the order of lines 2 and 4; I could have reversed that, but it doesn’t really matter … I want to begin and end today with self-examination.
Even though I don’t often even think the word “God” carelessly, and though I never say it that way audibly, is my sense of reverence more lacking than I’m willing to admit? Am I not called to an ever-higher standard, knowing God as I do? To put it starkly, even crassly: if an unbelieving or nominally Christian townsperson who says the word “God” as carelessly as TV actors and pop magazine writers and texters and instant-messagers has only a 10% consciousness of God’s existence, and if I have an 80% awareness of God, am I not expected to rise far above? Not speaking profanely about deity is a given. But what more is there required of me?
It has always, always bothered me to hear a Christian using the word “God” or “Jesus” as a thoughtless exclamation. How can she say that? I would ask myself sometimes. Or more often, I have turned away, either in embarrassment for the careless person, or in disgust. Raised in a family in which such ways of uttering deity words were simply never considered, I quickly formed the opinion, based on tacit assumptions, that those who said “God” carelessly were not very admirable.
I still feel that way. Religionistic adherents to other denominations such as Methodism and Roman Catholicism seem regularly to use God’s name carelessly, and I’ve almost come to expect it, although I’m not any less offended. On the Christian college campus where I work, there are way too many times that I hear “God” in a way the word shouldn’t be said. Sometimes these utterances come from the mouths of students, and I think “Probably not a serious Christian.” Sometimes–and this troubles me even more–the utterances come from faculty colleagues, and I think “Who raised you? Watch your mouth. Don’t you hear yourself? God is better than that.”
At this point, I’ve either
- lost you, because you’re not a Christian believer and you don’t care about this stuff (not likely you would have read this far), or
- amused you, because you don’t think words are that important, and you curse and cuss without too many pangs of conscience, or
- fed your sense of indignance over inappropriate references to God.
If the latter (the most likely among my readers), then I would invite you, with me, to take it a step further. . . .
The word “God” (or “Jesus,” or titles like “Christ,” “Lord,” etc.) merits special attention. Special awe. A unique attitude. Reverent treatment. But how can we feel and show this reverence? The first order of business is dealing with my heart. When I think and speak of God, I want to develop and expand my sense of the holy–the inexhaustible other, the unbelievably pure. Sometimes the heart just isn’t there, though. The lack of blatant, vocal irreverence is good, but it’s not enough. I want more, and I want God to know that I want more.
Just as the lack of a final consonant (“Oh, my gah!”) doesn’t hide much, the lack of audibility doesn’t hide the heart from God. Sometimes–and I can readily blame this on my society, TV, etc., but it’s still my choice and my discipline that need attention, when all is said and done–I think thoughts that I would never say aloud. And this is probably just as bad, when considering my personal relationship with God. That someone nearby doesn’t hear me speak irreverently is good, but God hears my heart and knows my awareness of Him is not what it should be.
The Lord’s brother James once wrote that the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison … that the tongue is something no one can tame … that it should not be that out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. Our speech is clearly important. But I’m persuaded that James wrote these things out of a deeper knowledge that what comes out of the mouth reflects what is in the heart.
What is in my heart with regard to God on His throne? When I use euphemisms (gosh, golly, jeez, etc.), am I truly rising above? My dad once taught a lesson on this and was laughed at behind his back, but I think he was onto something, and part of me wishes I’d maintained his standards.
As I Christian, I should not speak flippantly of God. I should be full of care when using His name. More than that, I should revere and honor Him — worshipping spiritually — to the point that careless thoughts never arise in my heart.
How are you doing with reverence?