We have all bad-mouthed authority figures behind their backs — criticized a law officer, grumbled about a boss or complained about our parents. Worse, we have all taken God’s name in vain.
Let’s understand how blasphemy destroys us and our country and how praise of God is an answer to fixing America.
We will look at your name and God's Name, our best friend’s name, the purpose of the law, hired hands, the one true church, that abundant life, addiction, shepherds, pastors and the opposite of blasphemy.
Your Name, God's Name
Your name is a mark of identification. It labels who you are. The mention of your name carries the honor and reputation you may have in the community, good or bad. How would you like it if your name became a swear word. When something bad or surprising happened, would you like it if people cursed your name? Would you like your name being used for abuse, swearing and generally considered to be a worthless or dirty word? In Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 one of the Ten Commandments asks us not to use God’s name in vain. That means that we respect his name and not use it for evil, lying and similar vain and useless purposes. How should we treat the name of the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-18), the one who lay down his life for us?
Our Best Friend’s Name
Imagine that we had a best friend who loved us more than any other. Suppose that best friend sacrificed everything for our welfare including dying to save our lives. Would we want to bad-mouth that person? Would we like it if others started bad-mouthing that person’s reputation? Would we feel uncomfortable if others used his name as a swear word? As a part of his covenant with ancient Israel, God asked them not to abuse his name (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5). The shepherds of this world (politicians, industry leaders and yes, even church leaders) can not care for us in the same way as the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-18). Jesus loves us as no human being possibly can. How do we treat the name of the Good Shepherd? Ought not his name be revered more than any other?
Purpose of the Law
Imagine someone who loved us more than anyone, yet we turned our backs on him. Not only that, but we bad-mouthed that person, ruined his reputation and used his name as a swear word. Yet, despite all that, he died to save us. Even after he did so, we continued to abuse his name. That is what the law teaches us (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5), that all human efforts fail. The gospel teaches us that God still sent his Son to do what we cannot. That is why Jesus is called the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-18). He knows that his sheep are weak and cannot follow the rules. Those who use the law to puff themselves up do not yet understood the law. The purpose of the law is to humble us and prepare us for the gospel.
Reading of the Text: Read John 10:10-18
The One True Church
Official Catholic teaching is that it is the one true church. Official Orthodox teaching is somewhat alike. Official teaching of a number of denominations large and small is very similar. Yet, they cannot all be the one true church. Such exclusive thinking is not new. There were times that even Jesus’ disciples were caught up in such mentality. John 10:10-18 adds something interesting to this discussion. Jesus said that he had other sheep not of this fold or sheep pen. The “one true church” mentality on the human level stinks of politics and egotism. I like to call it “exclusive franchise” thinking. There certainly is one true church, but there is nothing in the Bible that specifically speaks of God having just one exclusive organization of human beings. It appears that God’s flock exists in more than one sheepfold.
The Abundant Life
When we read that Jesus came that we may have life to the full, the abundant life, we may read into the passage a purely materialistic abundance. We may assume that this passage means accumulating things, when it actually refers to an abundant life (John 10:10-18). An abundance of things can actually detract from an abundant life. Jesus said that we ought to be on our guard against greed because life does not consist of an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:13-21) but in being rich towards God. So, what is the abundant life? It is a life filled over and above our necessary dullness. It is a superior life, a life that is remarkable, one that is lived with greater honor. It is life devoted to the things of God, a life lived within the sheepfold of Jesus.
Addiction or Abundant Life
What would be our society’s greatest addiction? When we speak of addiction, we may think of alcohol or drugs, but those are not our world’s greatest addictions. Our economy relies upon creating addictions to products. Two of our greatest addictions are unhealthy foods and materialism. Advertising deceives us that material goods make an abundant life and politics deceives us that fixing America begins with a materialistic solution. We are constantly lied to that materialism and degenerate foods will create the abundant life. Yet, Jesus warned against greedy materialism because that is not life (Luke 12:13-21). Jesus came that we might have truly rich and satisfying lives (John 10:10-18). Attending church regularly is important, because Jesus gathers his sheep to give them a better life. Fixing America and each of us having a full life begins in his sheepfold.
The Hired Hand
Who is your pastor? That person is not the Good Shepherd, but a hired hand. That is the terminology used in John 10:10-18. All pastors read those words and say to themselves, “I hope that is not me.” Yet it is all pastors except the one, Jesus Christ. We must face the fact that we are being described here. Even Jesus’ disciples ran away during difficult times. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can any of us stay and fight. Pastors often compare themselves by how big their congregations, how long they have served, how many books they have written or other egotistical comparisons. From this passage success as a pastor is not measured by such silly standards but by standing firm when the wolf attacks. A great pastor is one willing to die for their congregation.
I grew up spending summers on my uncle’s sheep farm. Though I learned a lot about sheep, I did not learn much about shepherding. Later I became pastor of a rural church with many sheep farmers. Though I learned a lot more about sheep from them, I still did not learn much about shepherding until I met Robin. She was a shepherd. There is a difference. Sheep farmers have thousands of sheep, but Robin had a small flock and knew each one by name. Sheep often flee a sheep farmer, but when Robin took a small can of grain and shook it, they came to her and they knew her voice. That’s an advantage of small churches. Jesus is like Robin. He is the Good Shepherd and calls us into his flock to be cared for individually (John 10:10-18).
The word pastor is one of the least used words for a church leader in the New Testament, but a very meaningful one. Whereas other words carry meanings like envoy, servant, older person, teacher and overseer, the word pastor means a shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-18), and every human pastor is an assistant to him. As churches grow larger it becomes impossible for one pastor to provide individual care and so assistant pastors or small group leaders become the hands-on pastors of the flock. Whatever level of pastoral care can be given is vital because there is nothing more important to Jesus than his flock. All pastors know that they are inadequate and totally incapable of providing what Jesus would, yet we count it a privilege to love and be loved by the flock of Christ.
The Opposite of Blasphemy
We live in a world where every boss is criticized, where every leader is disrespected and the super-wealthy are automatically suspected of greed. There is plenty of reason to criticize a fellow human being. After all, we all fall far short of any godly ideals. A temptation that we all face is having that jaded, skeptical attitude towards God. Yet, Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-18). What does that mean? It means that, even though we are tempted to blaspheme his name because we are worn out by the constant corruption of fellow human beings, Jesus really is not like that. Instead of abusing his name and using it as a curse word, he really deserves the exact opposite. Jesus truly deserves praise, honor, love and abundant thanks for the full life that he bestows upon his flock.
We are all tempted to grumble against God and taking his name in vain is not censored in the media when barnyard and sexual swear words are. Fixing America starts by praising the name of him who created us instead of cursing God. We need to get back to praising and honoring the name of God.