‘Holy is Thy Name’

Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?” “I do!” And one of the first things the American new bride takes after saying “I do” is the trip around government offices, where she legally signifies her new life by taking her husband’s family name. We Christians, as the bride of Christ, begin our profoundly changed new life by taking the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a joyful and solemn occasion, for his name is holy and he expects us to revere his name: “Let them praise your great and awesome name. Your name is holy!” (Psalm 99:3). More than that, we are told that because our God is holy, we, also, are to be holy. We find this in both the Old Testament—“For I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I, the Lord, am holy” (Leviticus 11:45) and “You are to be holy because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own” (Leviticus 20:26)—and the New Testament, where Peter reminds us of this long-standing covenant/contract (1 Peter 1:16: “It is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’ ”). When God gave us his most important Ten Commandments, so important that God entered human history and spoke to Moses, one of the first was, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:7). He repeats this admonition in a tender reminder: “But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 5: 10-11). And Jesus tells us that when we love him, we are to do what he tells us—follow his commands (Luke 6:46).  So we know that as Christians—people taking the name of Christ our Lord and God—we are to be holy and honor the name of the Lord in how we act, think, and speak. We who pray in the name of Jesus, sing worship to “that name” of our almighty God, take the name of Christ as part of our identity, but who continually—even deliberately—disobey his commands, we misuse his name: taking the holy name of the Lord as nothing! When we use the name of the Lord as a curse, we are dishonoring his holy name. When we informally repeat God’s name in exclamations (“Oh my God!”)—so casually that now we only need the abbreviation “OMG”—we are breaking our covenant command to not misuse the name of the Lord our God. Can you imagine abbreviating almighty God?!! James tells us that when we know what is right, but don’t do it, that is a sin (4:17). Christians do not make a “practice of sinning” because God lives in us and we who have been born of God cannot keep on sinning (1 John 3:9). When we do something so casually that we don’t think about it, or sometimes even realize it, we can call that being “trapped” by a sin. Our brothers and sisters in Christ can “gently and humbly help” us see the wrong we are doing and remind us of the holiness of God’s name, taking care not to fall into the same unholy habit (Galatians 6:1). We know that when we take responsibility and decide to intentionally honor God’s name, we can admit our wrong, and “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This repentance and forgiveness breaks the habit. Then we only have to remember its importance—a command from our holy God—and we are free! The Holy Spirit gives us power to live in holiness: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ—new creation! The old has passed, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Blessed be the name of the Lord! Psalm 111: 8, “He provided redemption for his people, he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name.”  

Written by Rev. Linda Lee (Shaw) Karanja-Sebastian

Board Secretary


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