So that, my beloved, as ye always obey, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, with fear and trembling your own salvation work out. Philippians 2:12
I love words, not necessarily literature or poetry or philosophy, these are all good but it is words that I find fascinating. They have the power to summon angels or demons from our past. They can inspire me to reflect on the higher things as well as down to the depths of …… I spend my days listening for the perfect word to trigger my meditation. It can come from anywhere. I usually hope that it comes from the children themselves. I don’t know why but it seems more powerful that way. Unfortunately, I am not a good listener. I should be after going on about listening for the right word. My mind tends to venture to different pastures whenever I hear an interesting word. They take me on a journey when I should be listening. It takes a while for me to get my mind back to my interlocutor and then I try my best to pretend that I have been listening all along. Most of the time, I don’t believe that I am very convincing. They can see through me my façade. The word of interest this week is “blasphemy”. It was brought up by one of our youths. It brought together several things that have haunting my thoughts for the past few weeks. It all started with this simple phrase,“Do you accept the Word of God?”
It was a woman handing me a religious tract. I kindly refused. I felt embarrassed that I rejected the “Word of God.” It is disturbed me. Not that I believe that I was rejecting it but her words accused me of doing this. The children took it without paying any attention to the woman and stuffed it into their pockets. The woman walked off feeling that she had done her part. Later I saw the “the Word of God” in the trash can. This is why I refused it. I know that I will eventually discard it too. It seems strange to throw away something scared with all our regular refuse. What else can you do? The children will do the same. Furthermore, it is not the Word of God. The Bible has 66 books that all the churches agree on. Some have more but none have less. We believe that the Holy Spirit uses these Words to reveal to us what we need to know about God. However, one or two isolated verses do not make it the Word of God. Not forgetting the fact that in our spirituality, His words are living and they are not just printed words. Besides, we attach things to God to freely. A tract is a tract. It is not the Word of God. Even the word, “God”, should be used with hesitance. We act as if He belongs to us and we can attach His Name to anything we like. I felt embarrassed saying, “no”, to this person. In reality, she should be feeling embarrassed to use “God” so liberally. My mind was just wondering off with these words muttered by this woman. I wasn’t angry with her. She is just doing what she was taught. She was a good woman doing something she believed to be good. It doesn’t mean that the name of God wasn’t trivialized. The children and teens received the “Word of God” without any concern or reverence. It wasn’t intentional on their part. They received it in the same way it was handed to them.
Throughout the week, I kept hearing God’s name being thrown about flippantly. I see worn out t-shirts with Jesus’ name, smothered with paint and filth. They will eventually end up in the trash can. Yet, we believe that Jesus is God. I decided to stop thinking about it. It was occupying too much of my thoughts. Then Felipe, out of the blue, asked what is the meaning of blasphemy. He is the most religious of the lot. He carries an old worn out Bible in his backpack all the time. He likes to read the Psalms and some of the Biblical stories. The word, blasphemy, has been on his mind. He was actually one of the boys that was there when the woman gave us the tract. However, this occurred weeks before this formidable question. I answered that it is using God’s name in a way that is not worthy of Him. I explained further that when we use God’s name as if it belongs to us, then we are being blasphemous. It is a constant habit for beggars to use God’s name to manipulate people to give. I told him that this was also blasphemy. We had a brief discussion about it. I allowed Filipe to carry the conversation as far as he wanted to go. I did not want to overburden him with an extensive answer. However, it was interesting that he asked this question. It was the very thing that has occupied my thoughts.
Felipe, despite being very spiritual, hardly says anything about God. However, whenever he asks something about the Bible, it is always meaningful and relevant. Then we have some of our youth who use His name freely, they are the manipulative ones. I had to stop a teen once, not because he was using vulgarities or talking about inappropriate subjects; he used the words of Jesus to manipulate someone to give him a bottle of water. The person was walking into the church. She had her reasons for holding onto her drink. We might wonder why she did not give it. This is not the point. The disturbing fact that one of our youths had no qualms using our Lord’s words for his own personal gain. He learned it by just looking around. People have no longer any qualms about using God’s name to meet their own needs.
We have come a long way from the time of Jesus and apostles. Our faith is founded on Jewish traditions. However, we don’t need to just look at the Jewish community. We can pick any religious group at random and observe that they never use and abuse their sacred writings as Christians have done. I have a good Jewish friend who identifies himself as an agnostic in his present journey. He always uses G_d whenever he argues about His existence or non-existence. He shows respect and reverence for a deity that he may or may not believe in. Yet, we don’t seem to mind printing Jesus’ name on things that we discard in the most disgracing manner. Our children and teens look to us to see how we revere the Name of God. They follow our actions. They listen to our words. However, if we use His Name as freely as if it was our personal property, then we cannot expect them to think that God’s Name is sacred. Using God’s Name in vain is not just swearing. I think the greatest blasphemy of this age is that we use His name in a flippant manner. We have used His Name to get and do things to the point that no one feels the true weight of the word, God. We should not hesitate to use the word but only when it is appropriate. The word, God, should be used in the way Jesus used it. He described God’s living and active presence in our midst. Jesus used it with authority because His words followed His actions. His actions revealed the workings of the Father. Jesus took time to reflect and listen to God before proclaiming His words. We are asked to do nothing less. Giving out tracts and attaching God’s name to it won’t suffice. Using and saying, “Lord, lord……(Matthew 7:22)” won’t do especially for Jesus. God’s name must always be accompanied with an action that brings glory to His name. Something brings glory to God’s name when it reveals the essence of His being which is revealed as Love. Only then we can use His Name. However, it must be used with reverence. It must be used with fear and trembling.