My mother may have gone overboard. In order to keep our tongues in check, she not only banned us from using Our Lord’s name in vain, but she also prohibited my siblings and me from using gentler cuss words. Not geez. Not gee whiz. Not jeepers. Not gosh or gosh darn.
It was too easy to go from the benign to the profane, she said.
It may have been extreme, but Mom’s high standard kept me from breaking the 2nd Commandment. I still have a low tolerance for foul language – especially when it misuses the name of Our Lord.
At His name, knees should bow. At His name, there should be no punching of walls, no throwing of dishes, and no stamping of feet.
By His name, all creation should be blessed.
There are many ways to express anger. Even Our Lord became angry. But He did something rather amazing in that moment. He affirmed the authority of the Father. He elevated the dignity due His Father – and his Father’s house. Yes, He raised his voice. But even in anger, He remained perfectly holy. It is possible for us to model His righteous anger. It is possible to be angry and yet not sin (Ephesians 4:25-26)
This is a frustrating world. We can hardly escape feeling angry at times, but we do not have to defile the tongue in order to express emotion.
The book of James tells it like it is. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain” (1:26).
The old adage has some truth to it: you can lose your religion – or at least render it useless.
When my parish priest was transferred to our little Missouri town, he immediately began visiting the local establishments. He learned names. Made friends. Won our respect. After morning prayers, he stopped by the local watering hole. And when the good ole boys began taking the name of His Lord in vain, he cringed inside, but he waited. He waited until he’d gained their respect. And then, he said it, quietly, friend-to-friend.
You know, guys, I love starting my day with you. And I hope to keep doing that. But there’s something you have to know about me. When you say Our Lord’s name carelessly, you are using the name of the One I love in order to curse. To vent. That’s hard for me to hear. Just thought you should know.
Sure, the guys sometimes fall into old habits, but they are more careful now. They see my priest as a friend – and now, they see him as a friend of Christ. That has made a difference.
I don’t suppose we have to go to extremes. We don’t have to purge words like gee and gosh from our vocabulary.
But we must remember that Jesus Christ is worthy of worship and praise. And holy is his name.