The first part of the Third Commandment is often translated into English as "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." However, this is not really a literal translation of the original Hebrew. The Hebrew words "Lo tissa" literally mean "You shall not carry." So translated literally, the first part of the Third Commandment would read, "You shall not carry the name of the Lord your God in vain."
What does this mean?
People often claim that their actions are carrying out God's will. They cite God's name to justify their actions. If the cause they are promoting is just, righteous and compassionate, then they are properly "carrying" God's name and should be supported. But sometimes people "carry" God's name to justify actions like promoting hate and bigotry. They use religion to justify evil. In that case, they are violating the Third Commandment by "carrying God's name in vain."
The following are the texts of some of the picket signs the Westboro Baptist Church displays on its website: God Hates You; God Hates the U.S.A.; God Hates Haiti; God Hates F---; God Hates Divorce; God Hates Jews; Thank God for AIDS; Thank God for Dead Soldiers.
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Can anyone reasonably believe all of these picket signs represent God? Of course not.
However, the Third Commandment goes even further. Not only does it forbid someone from carrying God's name in vain, but it goes on to say "that the Lord will not clear someone who carries His name in vain." In other words, if someone carries God's name in vain, there is no way of getting God to forgive. God will not clear the person who carries His name in vain. God will not forgive someone who demeans His name by associating it with evil, hateful causes. No such severe warning is added to any of the other commandments, including those forbidding murder, adultery and stealing.
So by using God to justify their messages of hate, the members of the Westboro Baptist Church are committing a very serious sin. If an individual acts in a despicable manner, he brings shame only upon himself. But if someone acts in a disreputable manner while claiming to act in the name of God, he brings dishonor not only upon himself, but also upon God. And he may alienate people from God.
From a theological standpoint, by misrepresenting God, the members of the Westboro Baptist Church are treading on very dangerous ground. They are engaging in acts of great sinfulness.
The writer lives in Conway.