Show Some Respect!

As a young child I learned at school, as most did, the Lord’s Prayer. The phrase “Hallowed be Thy Name” passed over my head back then, and it’s possible that the repetitious nature of this sacred prayer has diluted it’s meaning, even for the devout. But God’s Name is to be hallowed, honoured and respected, just as God Himself is. The Almighty does not need anyone to defend Him, but let’s think about ways in which we may be showing God disrespect today and, if so, deal with them quickly!

It is true that, while on Sundays we are all singing off the same PowerPoint, Christians have very different heart responses to God in their day to day lives. Most alarming of these can be a somewhat antagonistic attitude towards Heaven in times of difficulty. In short, believers being angry with God. We have all, perhaps, been tempted by this. Tragedy can strike our lives and our families. Horrendous circumstances abound, and will do so until the Lord comes again, bringing His final surgery to our broken world. Until that day, we may be faced with seasons where “trusting God” will be immensely difficult; where truly believing that He loves us, knows where we are, is working it all out for good: all these may be a stretch of faith too far for an honest soul. But in those dark, dark places, we must resist the serpent and his old advice: “Why don’t you curse God and die?” (Job 2:9). The truth is clear: to curse God is to die, in spirit at least. There can be no room for anger with the Almighty in the human heart. It is, quite simply, not allowed.

Sometimes, we can treat God as though He was merely a human friend. Of course, Christ wants friendship with us. He has laid down His life for His friends and we are no longer merely “servants” because we are sharing in the Father’s business (John 15:13-15). But this friendship is not without some condition: Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). We must not confuse the holy call for intimacy with God for the kind of casual friendships that exist in human terms. To be truly a friend of God, you must know who He is. God is not a Facebook friend, where a fleeting memory of someone’s name or sharing a classroom in 1975 qualifies for acceptance to the tally. Friendship with God should be intimate but never informal. In some circumstances, to call Jesus your “mate” may be a beautiful and genuine reflection of all He means to you. But be sure there is also a fear of the Lord; a trembling in the presence of the awesome uncreated One.

Occasionally, we meet people who think that the Almighty is their servant, rather than the other way around. Recently, I heard someone blurt out in frustration, “God has got to do something!” These divine demanders are often spelling out exactly when God should speak to them, heal them, or hand over His money. They have a teenage spirit; thinking that by sulking or whining they are can move Father’s hand. Of course, the Bible reveals God to be a loving, kind, generous, giving God. But God does not “have” to do anything at all! The greatest gifts: His Son, His presence, His mercy and forgiveness, are already ours to enjoy. Everything else is a bonus. You can’t summon El Shaddai in for an end of year review, especially with you sat in the manager’s chair.

Finally, if we are hallowing God’s Name, we should be careful how and when we use it. The casual phrase “Oh my God!” in Christian mouths is offensive and blasphemous in the British church and those from other cultures should be aware of this. It is also just as easy to dishonour God’s Name by claiming He has had special dialogue with us: “The Spirit told me this…The Lord is leading me to do this…”; especially when no such thing is true. Let’s be brutally honest with ourselves. We often make up life as we go along; driven by self-interest, the avoidance of pain/challenge, or by emotional responses. If you are going to leave your church during the expensive and inconvenient building project, don’t tell the Housegroup it’s at God’s command! To be sure, God speaks and the Holy Spirit guides, but if we are suggesting that God has spoken to us, it should be referenced with awe and wonder. We are not like Alice in Wonderland: three impossible prophecies before breakfast.

Nahum 1:5 says of the Lord: “The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger?” Showing God some respect? Seems good advice to me.

Originally published in JOY Magazine, March 2010

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