While in the military, I came face to face with the regular practice of abusive, distasteful language. The encounters in the barracks were off-putting, but when classroom sessions were started with swearing and off-color jokes by the teacher, the situation certainly became offensive.
As a sincere Christian I prayed for an answer to this apparent dilemma. I didn't want to be self-righteous, or to maintain a holier-than-thou attitude, but the fact remained that the Bible, through the great moral leader, Moses, condemned this practice in the Ten Commandments. Clearly and directly the Scriptures state: ''Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.''n 1
n1 Exodus 20:7.
The little word ''vain'' just seemed to stand out to me. As I pondered the meaning of this instruction, it became obvious that the more I emphasized the hopelessness and futility of this problem, the more disobedient I myself was being to this commandment.
I reasoned, ''What are some of the terms used in the Scriptures for God? Perhaps Love, Spirit, Mind.
''God is Love,'' I thought, ''infinite, impartial, uncompromising Love - the source of all blessings. It is certainly wrong, then, to use this term in relation to pornography, sensualism. But isn't it equally wrong for me to feel dejected and hopeless? Isn't this, in a sense, taking God's name in vain?
''God is Spirit, the exhaustless originator of divine substance, vitality, energy. To pervert this term by linking it to the use of alcoholic beverages is never right,'' I reasoned. ''But neither is it accurate to feel that the dreamlike atmosphere of sin can be more powerful than the active expression of good.
''God is the one and only Mind,'' I continued. ''It's natural, then, to express the intelligence to discard the belief that one must be either a participant in or a victim of meaningless, filthy language. For, according to the Bible, man is God's image.''
Writing of the synonymous, Biblically derived terms for God, Mary Baker Eddy, n2 a totally committed Christian, says: ''They refer to one absolute God. They are also intended to express the nature, essence, and wholeness of Deity.''n3
n2 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 465. Is it possible to think of this ''nature, essence, and wholeness'' of God as abstract, impractical? The realization of what is included in that term ''God, '' and the recognition of man's relationship to his Maker, bring practical solutions to problems-appropriate answers.
This was certainly true in my case. Before telling a joke, the instructor made a practice of saying in a rather casual, haphazard manner, ''Anyone that finds these jokes offensive can leave the auditorium and come back when I'm through.''
One morning, after praying thoroughly and specifically about this challenge, when the teacher made his usual offer, I found myself getting up and going to the lobby of the auditorium. There were a large number of men in the group, and this action took a sense of moral conviction and courage I had never experienced before. But I felt no condemnation toward anyone; only strength, love, and intelligence - I felt God's presence.
When I returned for the instruction, nothing was said. However, the next day when I left, several other men came with me. By the end of the training program , the foyer of the building was comfortably filled with fellow soldiers. The swearing in the barracks also lessened to a great degree.
Christ Jesus taught as an essential part of the Lord's Prayer the need to venerate and acknowledge God's name. In consistently doing this, we are communicating with our Maker in meaningful terms. We are realizing something of His infinitely good nature, of His ability to bless. This leads to more practical ways of dealing with abusive language as well as with a wide range of other challenges. ''Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.'' DAILY BIBLE VERSE Let all. . . clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you. Ephesians 4:31