Typically when we run into the Second Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” we think about cleaning up our language, especially not using the Divine Name in a derogatory or cursing manner. But when we consider Luther’s explanation we receive a more full understanding.
“We are to fear and love God,” Luther begins his explanation! By the way, his explanation to each of the remaining commandments will use these words. These are the words that formed the explanation to the First Commandment! Luther’s explanations always make a tie to the First, and the most important, Commandment.
“We are to fear and love God so that we do not use his name superstitiously, or use it to curse, swear, lie, or deceive, but call on him in prayer, praise, and thanking.”
Note that with the latter half of the explanation, the part stated positively, that we learn what the will of God is for our lives. In the Second Command we learn that God wants us to call on him in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. When we do so we also honor the First Command, namely, we fear, love, and trust God above anything else – thus having no other gods.
Little wonder that any other use of his holy name is a violation, or breaking, of the commandment. A superstitious use for example neglects having God alone as our God, and looks instead to a good luck charm or a special spell. If we cloak a lie by swearing to God we are telling the truth, we use God’s good name to prop up a lie. If being known by his name, as in fact we are when we are called “Christians”, we act deceptively and drag his name through the mud.
Think of a woman who takes her husband’s name in marriage. She does so in vain, that is uselessly, if she is adulterous. But when she honors his name she shares in all that is her husband’s.
Since You Asked…
Why do we say in the Creeds that Jesus Christ “is seated at the right hand of the Father”? Does this mean that our Lord is far away from us?
This has little to do with Christ’s physical location. Instead it has to do with the authority he assumes. For a King to be seated on a throne is a symbolic gesture of his rule and authority. Heaven itself is a reality that transcends time and space. It is the unseen and timeless realm that underlies the visible and temporal world. We confess Christ to be seated at the right hand of the Father because we believe him to be the rightful King of the universe. Indeed, Jesus is Lord!