Lesson Two — Words of Love: Don’t Trivialize My Name
The Third Word
Primary Scripture: Exodus 20:7 and Matthew 7:21–23
No Mischief with the Name
The first word that Jesus speaks in Mark’s Gospel is metanoeite. St. Jerome translated that word from Greek to Latin as parnitentia or, in English, repent. That loaded English word obscures nearly completely the meaning of the original Greek. The word Jesus used means to have a primal change of mind, world view, or way of processing reality. It only secondarily has to do with repent’s change of behavior and that change of behavior is only a result of a change of mind and view.
Consistent with that holy desire, Word Three is God’s way of telling us that to live as God’s beloved we must have the same primal change of mind and world view with regard to our relationship with God. When God gifts us with the intimacy of God’s Name, that gift comes with power. That power can be misused or become subject to our unruly, untamed egos. With this Word, God asks us to choose not to trivialize our relationship, not to make mischief in the world with it, and not to attach God’s Name to things that are inconsistent with God’s deepest values. We can make mischief with God’s name in big public ways, like assuming and stating that our opinions are actually the opinions of God. We can also violate this Word in small daily ways. And I don’t just mean cussing!
Let me tell you a story.
The phone rang at an inconvenient time. It was the spring of 1971. I was sixteen and busy in my room making giant flowers out of crepe paper while the glue dried on my newest collage. I was feeling self-righteous. I had taken a stand. 1971 was the year of total integration in the schools in my little south Alabama town. Private schools that white students like me attended had sprung up all over the county, but I had insisted on staying in a public school that was about 80% African American. One of the casualties of the adult fear of integration in those days was the prom. Adults were terrified at the thought that young people of different races might dance together; the prom was nixed. Amid the hue and cry of their children, some parents got together and decided that they would have separate proms. One prom at Dunbar Recreation Center for black kids and one at Beeland Park for white kids. I would have none of it. I remember the feeling of righteous power I had as I ran up and down the halls at school telling anything that breathed that, as for me, I wasn’t going. The whole thing stunk to high heaven and I flat refused to participate.
But that night Tim Callins, a senior, called and invited me to go. Suddenly, all I could see in my mind’s eye was him in a powder blue tuxedo to match his eyes and me in peach taffeta shaking away to some terrible band with the scent of Old Spice and gardenias in the heavy air. With no warning whatsoever, I found myself begging God to tell me it was ok to go to this event that just moments ago had been anathema to me. “O God,” I pleaded. “Tim called, that must mean it is your will that I go, right? Maybe I could be your witness there.” I shake my head even now.
Feeble attempts to apply God’s Name and power (permission) to things that are essentially our own ego run amok are not something with which many of us are unfamiliar. It is sometimes a subtle thought process that goes something like this. “It is what I want. Your Word says you will give me the desires of my heart. Surely there is a text somewhere to make what I want seem like what you want. O God please! Please be pleased. I think you are pleased. You are pleased. It is your will. Guess what? God said it was ok.” Good grief. But let’s face it, we know how to do this.
God is on to us, and reminds us to change our minds and not use God as a means to dubious ends. This Word invites us to examine our motives. How do we make use of God’s Name? And, it asks us never to manipulate either God or others with the Name.
(By the way, Tim and I did not go to the prom. We rode around town in his blue Camaro and listened to music on his 8-track. Small victories.)
Eugenia Anne Gamble
Author of the 2019–2020 PW/Horizons Bible Study
Purchase a Love Carved in Stone Bible study book (item number HZN19100) and study along with us.
Call 800/533-4371 or order online