new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

You’d swear it was Lent

A friend tells me that her work has a ‘swear box’ for Lent. In other words, if your mouth runs free and loose, you have to cough up some cold hard cash as a punishment. In an unusual twist she got them to recognise that throwing around words like ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ count as swearing. This is no minor achievement in itself, given how freely they fly in our culture.

I found it intriguing was that there was a lower tariff on blasphemy than normal scatological/biological swearing. Apparently it is a worse misdemeanour to speak wrongly of bodily functions than of God. It strikes me that there is something slightly out of kilter with that. I’m not arguing that we should find the scatological/biological swearing acceptable, but that we perhaps need to recalibrate our vocabulary, getting a sense of perspective.

I could get all precious and talk about how it offends me and others to whom the name of Jesus means everything. But that’s not the reason we need a rethink. It offends God. If I treated your name the way people treat his, you’d be upset. And so he warns us that we are not to use his name lightly, or in trivial, pointless ways—as a swear word, a space filler, or an exclamation.

People need to look at how they use and abuse God’s name, not because they cause offence to others, but because they are digging a monstrously deep hole for themselves. Out of concern for themselves they need to hear what God says:

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7)

‘Guiltless’ isn’t the sort of thing you can buy off with a euro or two in a box, much less advance payment for a week’s worth. It’s going to take something much, much bigger—so big, in fact, that we can’t pay it; God has to offer to pay it for us. And that’s what Easter’s about.