Dave Brisbin 10.17.21
Is texting OMG—shorthand for oh my God—taking the Lord’s name in vain? Blasphemous, unlawful? Many Christians will answer yes and yes. But a group of Jewish high school students said they just use it instead of an exclamation point and don’t feel God is involved at all, that OMG stands for oh my gosh anyway. Now gosh and golly have been polite euphemisms for God since the 1700s—can’t expect high school students to know that.

Those who answer yes and yes will say that OMG breaks the third commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. (Use of King James for scary emphasis.) But the context of the commandment points to legal contracts, which at the time were “signed,” sworn with their highest authority—God’s  name. To break such an agreement was taking the Lord’s name in vain, making it worthless, and no society can survive losing respect for its highest authority. But Jesus takes this a step further, saying swear no oath at all, that yes or no is sufficient, recognizing that for an honest person no oath is necessary, and for a dishonest person, no oath is enough.  Be honest, decent, true to your word, and law has already been fulfilled.

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Is Jesus literally saying never make an oath? Quakers and Mennonites have believed so, refusing to testify in court or serve in the military where an oath is required. But Jesus is not forbidding all oaths. He’s forbidding vain oaths—those we don’t intend to honor. It’s a condition of the heart Jesus is after. Is texting OMG forbidden? Following rules to the letter makes us feel safe, that controlling our behavior can control our outcomes. But Jesus is deconstructing the legal walls we use to make us feel safe and justified. Jesus is not here to make us safe. He’s here to make us free. And to be fully free is to be fully at risk, vulnerable. To be fully free is to stop hiding behind defensive walls that also limit and imprison: to come out and make peace with our vulnerability, knowing that only in vulnerability are we connected, and only in connection is it possible to be  in love—free to be in Kingdom.

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