When Peter denied Jesus outside the High Priest’s house that fateful night, he did everything he could to separate himself from Him. Everyone around knew better though. “Even the way you talk gives you away,” said the bystanders (Matt. 26:73). In Peter’s desperation, he altered his language. “Then he began to curse and swear, ‘I do not know the man!’ And immediately a rooster crowed.”
All during my upbringing, I was told that using God’s name with a curse word was “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” Certainly, invoking God in such a flippant and vulgar way is using His name in ways it ought not to be used. But there is a little bit more to it too. Names have value and meaning because of the character and reality behind them. Who is God but the glorious, awesome, loving, and dreadful Creator of the universe? Many other things have been given the name “god”, but in reality, they are vain, worthless idols. Throughout Scripture, people are invited to take up God’s name, not only with words but in deeds (Acts 2:21, Rom. 10:13, etc.). Even so far as to command, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col. 3:17).
Again, names and descriptions help us recognize reality. If I intentionally take up God’s name to lie about Him, then I commit perjury. What about the names that He gives other things? Take, for instance, our current language wars. I am regularly asked about whether disciples of Christ should use people’s preferred pronouns. We are told that it is kindness to do so and that Christians ought to be kind. But there is no lying to a person that is kindness. No deception fuelling delusion without challenge that is helpful to their soul. Is a man truly a woman simply because he says so? Of course not. But how will my going along with this vanity help him? How will my speech recognize the reality of the situation? How will it tell the truth about what God has said for this man; written even so deeply as his DNA and beyond? Will I lie for his feelings and the death of his soul? Will I make God out to be a liar? Will I take His name in vain? God forbid it for His name’s sake!
Brethren, we are doing no one any favors by playing the sex-positive pronoun game. Disciples of Christ are supposed to be reflections as Jesus’ namesakes. Every word and action is an opportunity to highlight the Truth. But if we abuse this life that we have been given for the praise of His glory, then could we not say that our insincere or unfaithful appeal to God is taking His name in vain (1 Cor. 15:2, Gal. 3:4)? Peter was recognized as a follower of Jesus because he talked like Him. So he cursed and swore vain oaths. If we, Christians, talk like the revolutionaries, liars, and sexually immoral of the world, what does that say about whom we follow (Rom. 1:32)?