Thou Shalt Not Murder - Sermon Text
In about 1997/8, in my early 20’s, the Film, Seven Years in Tibet came out. It recounts the adventures of Heinrich Harrer a German mountain-climber who in the 1930’s found himself lost in Tibet after a climbing expedition in the Himalayas went wrong.
Having got lost in the foothills of the Himalayas, Heinrich Harrer found himself rescued by a group of Tibetans and taken to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet where he had the privilege of forming a friendship with a young Dalai Lama. (This was before the invasion of China.)
In total he spent seven years in Tibet, and during that time Heinrich Harrer discovered a culture that was mostly unknown in the West at the time having largely been untouched by the West. The movie portrays how Harrer’s encounter with the Dalai Lama and with Tibetan culture had a softening effect on his hard and arrogant personality. Although clearly not without its own problems and intrigues, on the whole, he encountered a much gentler and more compassionate culture than the Nazi dominated culture of Germany that he had left behind.
It was one scene in particular that stood out for me in the movie, that remains with me to this day. In the movie, the Dalai Lama had commissioned a new building project near to his residence. I forget what the building was going to be used for. But what became clear as they were digging the foundations was that those who were engaged in the building project were doing their best to make sure they didn’t kill or harm the earthworms and other insects and creatures in the process.
It really made an impact on me and in a South Africa that was being ravaged by political violence left wondering that if we could foster and nurture a culture where even earth worms and insects could be treated with value and respect, maybe we could nurture a world where less violence would place between human beings.
Today, we come to reflect on the 6th Commandment. In many catechisms in different denominations, the 6th Commandment reads: You shall not kill. If the 6th Commandment tells us we shouldn’t kill, it might seem quite puzzling that the Old Testament is in fact full of killing.
But the original commandment was not in fact a prohibition against killing; it was a prohibition against murder. The word that some would translate as kill I understand might be more accurately translated as murder. And so the truth is that in Israelite tradition, killing was “acceptable” under certain circumstances, as we have indeed already seen in this series on the 10 Commandments. Killing another human being was considered “acceptable” if for example they had caused the accidental death of another, for example if they kept a dangerous ox that caused the death of another. Killing another human being was also considered acceptable as a punishment for murder, for insulting one’s parents, for incest, for adultery, for blasphemy and for breaking the Sabbath. In fact this covers half of the 10 commandments. As we have also noted, the kind of killing advocated was particularly brutal for most of these: death by stoning, something that almost all of us today would regard as reprehensible and even as evil. One wonders why if they felt killing was necessary, a more human way of killing was not used? Why stoning of all other possible options?
In addition, some argue that within in the Old Testament, the injunction not to murder appears to have largely been interpreted to be a tribal one. It was not acceptable to murder someone from one’s own tribe or nation, but the same did not always seem to apply when dealing with people from another tribe or nation. Indeed, Moses was a murderer of an Egyptian soldier, but apart from having to escape being punished by the Egyptian authorities there is no indication of God confronting him for what he had done.
In other instances in the Old Testament, slaughtering all of the adults and children of every city the Israelites attacked, apart from the virgin women who they could keep for themselves, also did not seem to be covered by this commandment (Deut 2:31-34, Num 31:12-18). In addition, Michael Nugent points out the irony of the passage that when Moses comes down the Mountain the first time with the freshly chiseled set of commandments and finds the Israelite people bowing down and worshipping a golden calf, his first reaction in to call the Levites to himself and to order them to kill three thousand of their brothers, friends and neighbours.
Some like Michael Nugent would suggest that there is a strange inconsistency in the Old Testament surrounding this commandment not to murder.
But the Old Testament distinction between murder and killing is in fact one that most of Western society continues to operate on. The very fact that war is sanctioned and regarded as legitimate under certain circumstances means that we as Westerners have also operated on the understanding that some killing is, dare I say, ‘acceptable’ but other killing is regarded as unacceptable.
The distinction between killing and murder is an interesting one. The first question one might ask is what is the dividing line between killing and murder? Under what circumstances can killing someone not be regarded as murder?
For the most part Western nations and cultures have regarded killing as acceptable only under circumstances of self-defense, when one’s own life, or when one’s family, tribe or nation is threatened by another. It was St Augustine who in the 300’s made the first Christian argument for what he called a ‘just war’. He argued that under certain circumstances it was right and just for Christians to go to war.
But this had not always been Christian understanding of war.
Many of the earliest Christian writers in the first three centuries of Christianity could probably be described as pacifists. Hypolytus of Rome who died in the year 235 AD for example believed that a soldier could only be baptised as a Christian if he refused to kill other human beings. If he remained willing to kill, he would be rejected for baptism.
Tertullian who was a contemporary of Hypolytus believed that when Christ disarmed Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, he had symbolically called all Christians to lay down their arms.
There are some historians who believe that serving in the military only became common practice amongst Christians after the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. When Christianity became married with political power it was inevitable that it would have to begin justifying killing under some circumstances.
These are difficult and complex ethical questions and debates that have echoed down the centuries. Even today, Quakers and Mennonites amongst others would adopt a pacifist approach suggesting that all conflict, no matter how intense needs to be resolved by non-violent means and never by killing or war.
But Jesus raises even deeper questions about the command not to murder. In Matthew’s Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus suggests it is not just the literal murdering of other people that we need to be careful of. Jesus cautions us against harbouring angry, seething, murderous and even contemptuous thoughts in our hearts for others for indeed, in most instances, murder is something that takes place within the human heart and the human mind a long time before it is played out in reality.
But there are other more subtle ways in which murder plays out in our world today. When manufacturers of cladding fail to disclose that it is in fact flammable and combustible, and yet allow it to be put on residential buildings all over the UK and probably other parts of the world, is that not in some way also an act of murder or culpable homicide, lining one’s own pockets with very little concern for the lives of others? What about those companies that continue to make money from polluting and destroying the planet and thus endangering the health of human beings all over the country? It is wonderful to see that there are investment companies and pensions that are beginning to offer ethical ways of investing one’s money in companies that do not engage in unjust and what some call ecocidal policies that are beginning to endanger not just human life but all of life on the planet.
In closing, an online legal dictionary defines murder as “...the unlawful killing of another human being without justification or excuse…”. It is becoming clear that this is an inadequate definition of murder, because it is possible to murder other human beings by destroying the air that they breathe or the water that they drink or the climate that they live in, all in the name of profit, and all quite legally at present.
If murder is the unlawful killing of life, then the opposite of murder is surely the nurturing and protecting of life… and the nurturing of life is ultimately a work of love. Paul reminds us that Love is the fulfilling of the law. If we are to fulfil this commandment not to murder with all the grey areas that it contains, is the antidote to murder, not the nurturing of love, doing everything in our power to love, protect and nurture the lives of others? And perhaps by extension, to do everything in our power to love, protect and nurture the life of our planet?
Sermon Text: Honour your Father & Mother
Grimm’s Fairtytales includes a very poignant story that goes as follows:
“There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled. When he sat at table he could hardly hold the spoon, and often spilt the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son's wife were disgusted at this. And so they made the old man sit at last in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his meagre portion of food in an earthenware bowl. He would to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears.
On one occasion his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him and bought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.
They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. "What are you doing there?" asked the father. "I am making a little trough," answered the child, "for you and mom to eat out of when you are old."
Struck by what they had heard from their little son, the man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Quietly, without saying a word, they took the old man to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise saying nothing if he did spill a little of anything.”
Joy Davidman writes that the crudity of this fairytale helps to illustrate the what she believes is the naked and crude point of the 5th Commandment: Honour your parents, lest your children dishonour you. It is a stark conclusion to a thought provoking fairytale.
The injunction to honour and respect one’s parents and one’s elders is not unique to the 10 Commandments. It could be said to be a fairly universal cultural norm in almost al traditional cultures and societies around the world. My experience of African culture is that respect for one’s elders is really important. Parents and Elders in African culture traditionally not only command a lot of respect, but have a lot of power and authority in the family structure with most of this power and authority vested in the father, and in the extended family, in the most senior male figure.
In Tibetan society, which is dominated by Tibetan Buddhist thinking, honouring one’s parents takes on an interesting twist for it is the mother figure that is regarded with highest honour. Even in popular Tibetan culture, today, I understand that modern pop songs in Tibet are not about romantic love, as they are mostly here in the West, they are all about the love for one’s mother. This tendency is rooted deeply in Tibetan Buddhist thinking where all living creatures are regarded as having potentially been one’s mother in a previous life. From this perspective the Tibetan’s tendency to honour their parents, and especially their mother’s, flows out of a great debt of gratitude. Mother’s they would say deserve our highest honour because we owe them our very lives. When we were helpless babies we could not have survived without our mother’s care, attention and protection or learnt even the most basic skills of how to walk and talk.
But before we stray too far away from the 5th commandment itself, I would like to get back to it and firstly look critically at this commandment:
The first critical examination of this commandment comes again when we realise that in Deut 21:18-21 there is yet again a brutal and barbaric law that accompanies the 5th commandment suggesting that those who disobey the 5th Commandment should yet again be stoned to death.
In fact, I could have said the same thing about last weeks Commandment to rest on the Sabbath, but it felt a little tedious and gory week after week to emphasize the same gory and brutal consequences for disobeying various laws contained in the 10 Commandments.
But it is difficult to avoid, and it is another reminder that the books of the Old Testament can’t be used as a neat and ready-made moral authority when it contains laws with consequences as barbaric and one could even say, as evil as death by stoning.
The second critical examination of this commandment comes in the form of criticism that this commandment does necessarily not foster loving, caring, mutually respectful family values. In fact it when read in the light of Deuteronomy 21, it commands unthinking obedience, regardless of right or wrong, under fear of being stoned to death.
If honouring one’s parents was originally conceived of in terms of unthinking obedience and unquestioned respect (as is the case for many traditional cultures), this would have been, and would continue to be very difficult especially for those whose parents may have been less than honourable and less than caring and nurturing, apart from the fact that it would stunt the full psychological growth of a child.
The Apostle Paul, in light of his new found faith in Jesus clearly had this question in mind when he was giving instructions to Christian families in the Church in Ephesus. In Ephesians 6 he first addresses children reminding them to obey their parents in the Lord. His first appeal is not because it is commanded by God, but because he says it is right. Only then does he mention the 5th Commandment and that it is the first commandment with a promise, that it will go well with you in the land.
But straight after, unlike the 5th Commandment, Paul addresses the parents as well… or more specifically fathers who would have held most of the power in the family. In verse 4 he says: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger and in Col 3:20 he adds “...lest they become discouraged.”
Paul in these passages is beginning, I believe, to make a few baby steps forward. He has clearly come to learn from his own experience of the love of Christ, that truly loving relationships require some degree of mutuality, even between parents and children. It can’t just be that parent-child relationships have only a one way responsibility, but if parent-child relationships are to be truly loving, it requires not just children honouring their parents, but also that parents should in some way be honourable and loving in the way they treat their children. Truly loving relationships do indeed require mutuality.
This is quite a major new insight that Paul has come to. Certainly in Roman culture, father’s had absolute power. Carol Ashby describes the power as follows:
“The paterfamilias (father) had the power to tell any of his children to do something, and they were required to obey him. He had the power of life and death over all except his wife. He had the right to kill his child of any age... the right to decide whether a newborn would be allowed to live or would be exposed to the elements to die, and the right to sell his children into slavery. It was not uncommon for an unwanted or defective baby to be exposed. Although it was legal, killing one’s children after infancy was generally frowned upon without extreme provocation.”
Writing to Gentile Christian’s in Ephesus and Collosae who were part of the Roman Empire, Paul’s small movement towards mutuality and love in family relationships would probably have been received by most as something quite revolutionary even if his writings were only baby steps in the direction of truly mutual and fully mature loving relationships.
In closing, I would like to leave us all with the question: What might it mean for each of us today to honour our mother’s and father’s? For each of us our answers might be different. For some it might mean wrestling with what it might mean to honour parents who are still alive, and how to live and engage with such parents in ways that are hopefully truly loving and mutual. For others it might raise questions for how one might honour parents who are growing frail and who are becoming more and more dependent in the twilight of their years. For some it might mean wrestling with how one lives in healthy relationship with parents who may not have been the best parents in the world. Possibly distant, manipulative or even abusive? For others it might mean honouring the memory of a parent who is now deceased. What might it mean for you?
As the apostle Paul says, the 5th commandment comes with a promise: “That is may go well with you in the land”. I wonder if that could also mean, “...That you might live with a sense of well-being, peace, and love in you heart?”
What in your own unique circumstances might it mean for you to honour your mother and father, that you might live with a deep sense of well-being, peace and love, that you may live long on the earth.
The Fourth Commandment – Keep the Sabbath Holy
There is a modern parable about two wood-choppers who were given a fair amount of wood to chop by their boss with a dead-line of the end of the day.
It was a large amount of wood, and so the one wood-chopper set to work quickly and worked without a break all day. He started off quickly, but as the day went on, he chopped less and less wood, becoming more and more unproductive.
The second wood-chopper also set off quite quickly, but at regular intervals he would disappear for about 20 minutes at a time.
The boss observed what was happening, and despite the regular intervals when the 2nd wood-chopper would disappear, he seemed to be making much better progress than the first wood-chopper. In fact, in the end, he managed to finish his allotted task an hour earlier than the first wood-chopper.
When the boss and the first wood-chopper asked him what he was doing every time he disappeared for 20 minutes, he replied that he was taking time out to rest his body and also to sharpen his axe.
This little parable I believe speaks almost as a commentary on the 4th Commandment as we find it in Exodus 20:11. In the Exodus 20 version of the 10 Commandments, the Israelites are commanded to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy by not doing any work on it. And the justification for doing so is based on the opening creation narrative in Genesis 1 where, after creating everything in 6 days, God then rested on the seventh. It ends with the words, “Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy”. The sense that one gets from the Exodus 20 version of the 10 commandments is that God has set an example of a pattern and a rhythm of work and rest that human beings would do well to learn from. It is almost as though it is suggesting that the rhythm of work and rest is built into the very fabric of creation, going back to the very beginning. To live in harmony with God and with the way things are it is important to remember the importance of rest.
Wendy has recently been listening to a few podcasts on the importance of sleep. She has been quite struck by how important sleep and rest are both in terms of our emotional well-being, but also in terms of our physical well-being. She said that one virologist when asked what the most important thing people can do to protect themselves from Covid, said that they should make sure they get a good night’s sleep, because sleep and rest strengthen the immune system. Such a perspective reinforces the wisdom of the fourth commandment as we find it in Exodus 20 that encourages us to keep a healthy rhythm of work and rest.
What is interesting however is that the Deuteronomy 5 version of this commandment is not only worded slightly differently, it also gives a different reason or justification why the Israelites should observe the day of rest.
While Exodus 20 justifies the day of rest by emphasizing that God rested on the 7th Day of Creation, by contrast, Deuteronomy 5:15 justifies the day of rest based on the story of the exodus from Egypt. The hearers of the passage are instructed to remember that they were slaves in Egypt and how the Lord their God had brought them out with a mighty and outstretched arm. It ends with the words “Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath Day.”
Connecting the commandment to observe a day of rest with the experience of having been liberated from slavery in Egypt certainly has enormous social and political and even ecological ramifications.
To be a slave is to have no time for yourself. And the experience of most slaves in history is that they have been treated as less than human, meaning that slaves have often been required to work without rest seven days a week while their masters have rested freely. That is the nature of being a slave. Time is not your own.
But for a people who had once lived as slaves, there is a recognition of the inhumanity of this and the recognition that no human being should ever be made to work non-stop without a break and without proper rest. We need to recognize this 4th commandment as growing out of that experience of slavery.
What the 4th commandment did was to enshrine in law that no Israelite should ever have to live under the conditions of slavery again and the safeguard given was that they should be given the gift of being able to rest at least 1 day a week. Commandment 4 becomes a way of safe-guarding the freedom of a people who had once known the suffering and oppression of slavery.
But the 4th Commandment goes even further and deeper than that. This is a commandment not just meant to protect the Israelite people, but it is also extended to the male and female servants of the Israelites and even to foreigners living in their towns. This is quite revolutionary. Not only is the 4th Commandment a safe-guard against the Israelites living like slaves again, but it is also designed to ensure that the Israelites themselves never became perpetrators of the kind of oppression they were forced to live under while in Egypt.
This commandment represents a major step forward beyond a purely tribal religion. The gift of being able to rest once a week is extended not just to Israelites, but also to foreigners and servants. This is one of the earliest examples of something resembling a universal declaration of human rights, for it seems to recognise a common human dignity that needs to be respected whether a person is from one’s own tribe or not. It also recognises a common human dignity regardless of economic status.
This really is politically very radical and far ahead of its time. I wonder how many British and American slave owners who regarded themselves as practising Christians took these instructions in the 4th Commandment seriously and actually implemented them? I imagine not many.
But there is something even more radical in the 4th Commandment which is visible in both the Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 versions, and that is the recognition that even animals are to enjoy the gift of a day of rest at least once a week.
Just last week on William Crawley’s lunch-time show on BBC radio Ulster, there was a heated discussion about animal rights. But here in an ancient religious text from a few thousand years ago, we already see an early recognition that animals should be treated equally with human beings when it comes to observing a day of rest.
The Exodus 20 version simply mentions animals in general, but the Deuteronomy 5 version very specifically names animals that would have been considered work animals: donkeys and oxen.
I wonder what we can learn from the 4th Commandment as contemporary people?
Covid-19 has certainly presented us with enormous challenges, but it has also presented humanity with some opportunities. It has been a disrupter of our business as usual. And in disrupting our business as usual, it has presented humanity to space for reflection? Do we really want to get back to business as usual, or has Covid-19 created enough space for us to reconsider how we are living in this world? One of the questions it has raised is how we engage with work and rest? Is it right that economic considerations are the most important by which we measure success as human beings?
Has our obsession with material wealth and profit made us economic slaves driving us all to work way beyond what is healthy for any human being? I found an article online that says, studies of how the brain works show that offices can only facilitate creative thinking if they offer spaces for both focused work and restorative activities. (in other words rest and play).
Secondly, does our economic wealth come at the expense of foreigners who have become modern slaves, working without rest for very little money so that we can enjoy cheap products?
And thirdly, does our economic wealth come at the expense of the well-being of animals and the natural world? This is the question not only that the 4th Commandments raises for us, but even in the past 2 weeks, the Gupta report suggested that we need a radical change in our economic thinking to include the value of nature and the environment in any economic cost analysis and system.
These are profound questions that come to us not just from contemporary moral and economic philosophy but even out of the 4th Commandment?
In closing, a commandment to rest, I believe is a commandment of love. If we are to build a more loving world, and to become people of love, (as I believe our faith in Jesus calls us to do), in what way can we become part of a world, and an economic and political system that creates space for even the lowest paid in our world and even for animals and nature to be afforded the opportunity and the dignity of rest?
The Third Commandment: Do not misuse the name of the Lord Your God
Today we venture on in our exploration of the 10 Commandments as we examine Commandment 3
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who misuses his name.”
Just like the first commandment, one cannot examine this commandment without acknowledging the primitive and barbaric laws that surrounded this commandment in the Bible itself. Like the first commandment, disobeying this commandment came with the death penalty by stoning, as found in Leviticus 24:15-16.
According to the book of Leviticus, Moses is even described as presiding over such a stoning. A young man was found to have cursed the Lord, and so we read in Leviticus 24:12-14 “Then they put him in custody, so that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.”
Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the Lord commanded Moses.”
The violent and barbaric nature of such a text reminds us that we need to be very careful of turning to the Old Testament in a simplistic ways as a source of moral guidance.
If we are honest with ourselves, Moses, one who is upheld by many as a Biblical hero and even a prophet of God, is described as perpetrating the very same violent and barbaric behaviour that we condemn in the Taliban and in the Islamic State.
And even more than that, if we take the verses in Leviticus 24 literally, then truly God himself is ultimately guilty of ordering Moses to carry out this primitive act of barbarism in the first place.
I for one cannot worship a God who would have given such instructions whether it be to Moses or anyone else. It is for this reason that I cannot take these stories in the Old Testament as literally true and absolutely authoritative.
It is for this reason, I believe that these stories need to read as legends rather than history. As such, like all ancient legends and mythology, they might still contain archetypal and poetic truths for us, but not literal truths.
Getting back to the Third Commandment about not using the Lord’s name in vain, or not misusing the Lord’s name, apart from the danger of being stoned to death, the Old Testament stories also suggest that God himself could be extremely dangerous if one was to offend Him. Joy Davidman writes that thus, the Third Commandment is not just a nice-Nellyish warning against profanity It is much more like the sort of warning you see around power plants “Danger – High Voltage!” For the ancient Hebrews seem to have thought that God was like a live electricity wire. 2 Samuel 4 relates how Uzzah, who touched the Ark unwarily whilst trying to keep it from falling, was struck dead by the indwelling Power. The implied moral of that story (and again, I would call it a legend), seems to have been: Be careful how you touch God – he is dangerous!”
It was probably for this reason that Jewish people at some point stopped using God’s name at all. It was too sacred to be spoken, and perhaps they considered it to dangerous to be spoken, in case you misused it accidentally and you ended up getting zapped. As a result, the name YHWH ceased to be used. In it’s place, Jewish people used the word Adonai, which means “Lord” or “The Lord”.
I guess the question that one might ask is: “Is it true?” Is God going to strike us down if we use God’s name in vain?
The truth of the matter is that with all the profanity and blasphemy that happens in the world today, there are very few instances that I’m aware of, of people being struck down dead because they have misused God’s name or blasphemed against God.
If God is not going to zap us if we misuse God’s name, in what way might this Commandment still speak to us today?
How might we interpret this commandment through the life and ministry of Jesus, who as the author of the book of Hebrews describes him as the author and perfecter of our faith.
The first question we might ask is: What is in a name? What is the meaning and significance of a name?
In most ancient cultures, including ancient Hebrew Culture, a name wasn’t just a label. A name was thought of as embodying something of the character and personality of a person. I think most of us may have an inkling of this. We all know the experience of meeting someone and feeling like their name suits their personality completely, and also the experience of being introduced to someone and feeling a disjunction between the person we are introduced to and the name by which we are called. Have you ever had the experience of saying to yourself: But she really didn’t look like a Jane? At the very least it may be because she seems so different from another Jane that we have come to know well. But it does reveal that at a very ordinary level, like many ancient cultures, we also have a tendency of correlating certain names with people’s character and personality.
And that leads us onto another question: In the light of Jesus’ life and teaching, what is the Name, the Character and Personality of God?
In the Old Testament, God’s name was often associated with anger, unpredictability, punishment, danger. There are many people today who genuinely fear God, and hearing God’s name being invoked produces a feeling of fear and a lack of safety. Reading stories of Uzzah touching the Ark of the Covenant and being struck dead, reinforce this sense that God is dangerous.
But whereas many Old Testament stories present God as dangerous, jealous, moody, capricious and even vindictive, if Paul’s letter to the Colossians is right that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, then like the writer of John’s first Epistle, we would have to come to the conclusion that God’s Name, God’s nature, character and Personality is in fact Love.
1 John 4:16 God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
And so as the English Hymn writer Florence May Hoatson put’s it so beautifully.
God whose Name is Love,
happy children we;
listen to the hymn
that we sing to thee.
Bless us every one
singing here to thee.
God whose Name is Love,
loving may we be!
In Closing, I would like to get back to the Commandment not to misuse God’s name and would like to conclude by saying that to misuse God’s name is to use God’s name in any way shape or form that is unloving and unkind. It is to use God’s name for any other purpose other than the purpose of love.
God’s name was misused and abused on the island of Ireland in the way Mother and Baby homes were run in ways that were uncompassionate, judgemental, abusive and oppressive. God’s name has been misused and abused when it has been invoked to call people to war and acts of violence. God’s name is misused and abused when used by politicians to try and get votes when such politicians are acting out of selfish ambition rather than motivated by genuine love and care. God’s name is misused and abused when a businessman or woman puts a Bible on their desk, pretending to be honourable and honest, and yet doing business in ways that are less than honest and honourable.
To misuse and abuse God’s name I believe can even happen (and perhaps especially happen) when a preacher, a priest or minister presents an image of God in their preaching that is anything less than Love itself.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus turns the third commandment around. Instead of saying we should not misuse the Name of God, Jesus teaches us to pray “May your Name be kept holy.” God’s Name is kept Holy when it is only used for purposes of love.
And so may we keep God’s name holy as together with Florence May Hoatson we say:
Bless us every one
singing here to thee.
God whose Name is Love,
loving may we be!