Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: September, 2006

Oh my…

You shall not take he name of Yahweh your God in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Have you ever noticed how so many cultures use religious words when they want to express great emotion? The French say “Mon Dieu!”, Muslims say “Ya Allah!”, Hindus says “Oh Baghvan!” and us English folk say the exact same thing in English. Except, of course, for us pious Christians, because that’s blasphemy.

Is it really?

I’ve always understood blasphemy as saying something untrue and bad about someone, specifically God. Saying the word ‘god’ at an inappropriate time doesn’t seem to count as blasphemy. Okay, then we don’t say it because it’s taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Is it really?

For years I’ve wondered what it actually means to take the Lord’s name in vain. I’ve never really been comfortable with the interpretation that we shouldn’t say the word ‘god’ unless we’re actually talking about God. It seems like a bit of a stretch when the original says “you shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain.” It doesn’t say “you shall not say Yahweh or God in vain.”

I was thinking the other day, what does it mean to take the name of Yahweh? To take the name of God? My first thought is not regarding speech, but identification. Kinda like “Take this oath” or “Take this badge.” We who claim to be of Christ have taken the name of Yahweh upon us, haven’t we? We are called by his name and we identify ourselves with him. To me, this seems to be what it means to take the name of Yahweh my God.

So what does it mean to take it in vain? I think the commandment is re-iterated in the New Testament positively. “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling by which you have been called.” I think we take the name of the Lord in vain, not when we swear (though it’s rarely a good idea to swear), but when we fail to walk in a manner worthy of him. When we have taken his name upon us and refused to also take the lifestyle and worldview of Christ, we have taken Yahweh’s name vainly. When you called yourself by his name and use the word ‘Christian’ but fail to live as he lived, the name ‘Christian’ is a vain one. And God will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain, because his name is precious to him. When he puts his name on someone he means for that individual to respect and lift up his name, not allow it to wallow in the grime of sin and crap. Faith without works is dead. The name “Christian” without Christ in it is useless.

So maybe that’s a bit of an unorthodox interpretation, and I’m certainly not advising you to go around swearing now. But I do believe that the third commandment is much more serious and difficult (or impossible) to obey than simply to refrain from saying a certain word when you stub your toe.

So here we are.

We’ve moved to Kunri now. Got a cute little apartment that you’ll have to come and visit sometime soon. We’re just around the corner from our old place, so we know the neighbourhood pretty well.

Typing here at the in-laws place. We probably won’t be getting any Internet solution in Kunri this year, but I’ll be here once a month and I’ll try to use cafes in Kunri. I’ll do my best to make sure this pretty blog doesn’t falter much.

Because of your patience I’ve decided to show you some lovely pictures:

Joe’s joining the Pakistani cricket team. Yay.

He loves that bird.

Ruth and Joe, hanging in the kitchen with the bird.

I can’t think of a caption for this one.

I think I have a beard.

Joseph certainly takes up a lot of pictures, eh? I guess he’s the cutest in the family.

Here’s a cute nephew named Peter.

And lastly, a group of tribal ladies who recently turned from idolatry. Pray for them lots.

Hope to blog soon, pray for us all!
The Cook

Throwing rocks at glass houses

Scenario 1:
You’re having a wonderful day. Everything seems to be going your way. When you woke up this morning the sun was shining brightly through your window. Your mother or spouse surprised you by making your favorite breakfast, which you gobbled down with glee. Work or school called in the morning and said that it was cancelled for the day, leaving you free to do whatever you want. Yippee! You do just that, too. Maybe you play some games or go for a walk. Whatever you choose to do you have fun for hours until lunchtime. Lunchtime you come home. For some reason some family member or friend meets you at the door. Something he or she says offends you. Bang. Good day wrecked. You take whatever was said to heart and you’re miserable for the rest of the day, even after you’ve forgotten what was said. The good things of the day are gone; all that remains is your melancholy.

Scenario 2:
You’re having a bad day. Why? Who knows? When you woke up this morning the sun was shining right in your eyes, disturbing your sleep. Your mother or spouse made you breakfast, but something was probably wrong with it. On top of all that, work called and cancelled your shift today! Just when you needed the money, too! This left you idle and bored to death. You waste some time playing games or going for a walk. Around lunchtime you come home and some friend of yours is there and tries to say something nice to cheer you up. It doesn’t work and you’re made even more miserable. What a crappy day.

Have you ever noticed how good moods often seem like glass houses when bad moods are like rock-hard fortresses? When you are happy, it only takes a wrong word or accident to make everything fall apart. But when you’re in a bad mood all the good things in the world don’t seem to be able to cheer you up. It’s a shame that things don’t work out the other way around. It’s funny how we refuse to let go of our bad moods, even when our brain should be telling us that everything is going well for us. Even the bright attitudes of friends and family we take as insults or annoyances. Sometimes I think we like be miserable.

It’s neat to re-read familiar passages. I read this recently:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

You know what part I just noticed? Guard. It doesn’t say that prayer will give you peace. It says that through prayer and thanksgiving the peace of God will become a guard for your hearts and minds. When we fall on God for our every need and see our lostness and impotence without him and cry out for help his peace will guard our affections. We will find our personalities to change and maybe we won’t live in fragile, glass-house moods, our temperaments will be made more consistent. We’ll start to see and hear clearly. We won’t interpret the greeting of a friend as a veiled insult. We won’t be easily annoyed by the screaming kid while you’re trying to work. You won’t let insults and adversity wet your spirit. So much is great when you fall on God, isn’t it?

Moving back to Kunri soon. Pray that He will send all that should come to us. On we go.