Roger Barbee, “…we cannot cast a vote for a person who tells lie after lie. Becoming a Christ follower means that we must actively refute any combining of our religion with our country.”

As a youth growing up in a south-central North Carolina textile town during the 1950’s, I attended a Baptist church with my siblings and mother. In that church I sang songs like “Jesus Loves Me This I Know,” was taught Bible stories such as Noah and his ark, memorized Bible verses like the 23rd Psalm, and was taught about the Ten Commandments. 

Some of the lessons I took away from those Sunday School classes and sermons have butted heads with my adult reading and learning. For instance, I was taught that Jesus worked as a carpenter in his father’s shop when in fact both were most likely skilled handymen who were competent workers in several areas of building. 

Another misconception that I have lived with concerns the 3rd Commandment, the one about taking the Lord’s name in vain. For a variety of reasons, mostly my own ignorance, I have always viewed the breaking of this rule as a verbal one, such as the all-too popular exclamation, “Oh, my God…,” or when President #45 repeated three times the words GD in a North Carolina speech. A recent reading of Pastor Clarence Jordan showed how wrong I have been.

If you are unfamiliar with the writing of Pastor Jordan, I caution you. If you read a collection of his writings, such as The Inconvenient Gospel, your understandings of Christian doctrine will likely be confronted. A Christian scholar of Greek who lived The Sermon on the Mount, Dr. Jordan will challenge any staid Christian learning you may carry with you. 

So when I began reading the new collection of his speeches, I noticed one chapter titled The Ten Commandments and thought that I may as well skip that chapter because I knew them; not in order mind you, but I knew that they were commands, not suggestions, and I tried to obey each one. To paraphrase: Oh, ye of little understanding.

This chapter, like each one, is actually a speech given by Pastor Jordan. The Ten Commandments is one he gave at Goshen College in May 1965, in which he concentrates on the commands concerning our relationship with God, so only the first four are discussed; but in his explication of number 3, Pastor Jordan rattles my shallow understanding because he shows how actions, not just words, can take the Lord’s name in vain.

Pastor Jordan says, “A person who has never come within the Christian fold can’t take the name of Christ in vain. He’s never taken it. A Buddhist can’t take the name of Christ in vain, no matter what one says. Only those who come within the church, who take on the name of Christ, can take his name in vain.”

If Pastor Jordan is correct, and I think he is, every Christ follower becomes bound to keep the name Christ clean. Keeping the name of our Lord above reproach means that we are not free to express our anger at that other driver by flipping her off. Taking on the mantle of Christ means that we cannot cast a vote for a person who tells lie after lie. Becoming a Christ follower means that we must actively refute any combining of our religion with our country. 

If we are serious about the 3rd Commandment then we will shelter the sojourners. Being a Christ follower demands that I support justice not injustice. Wearing that name requires me to love not hate.

I took on the name of Christ when I was baptized and now realize the enormity of that decision. Words, like all I was taught in that Baptist church, are nice. But actions, as St. Paul writes, are what matter and our acts show how serious we are about being a Christ follower.

Roger Barbee