Have you ever noticed how many things – often terrible things – are done in the name of god? I’m using the term god in a generic sense. Perhaps the phrase in the name of religion would be a more appropriate way of stating it. However, behind every religion is a god and those who act in the name of their religion are ultimately acting in the name of their god.
God gets blamed for a lot of stupid and horrible things that we do. Wars have been fought in the name of god. Massacres have been carried out in the name of god. Now we learn that 276 girls were kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group, and will be sold as sex-slaves – in the name of Allah, their god. The leader of the group has admitted to the kidnapping which was allegedly done because Allah told him to. And they will be sold to the highest bidder because Allah told him to. You can read more here.
Before we get too indignant with events on the other side of the world (and I think we should be indignant), remember that kidnapping and slavery was practiced for hundreds of years in the United States (and in other places) in the name of the Christian God. And discrimination and racism was practiced in our churches long after slavery was abolished, again in the name of our God.
It won’t do for us to protest that it wasn’t us. It was our fathers and our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers. And as much as we would like to distance ourselves from their actions we are forever tied to them biologically, societally, historically and in every other way you can imagine. It was us as a people who ripped the dignity from another human being who was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). And it was justified it in the name of our God.
Don’t get me wrong – we should act in the name of our God. Colossians 3:17 says, whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. It’s just that we don’t get to decide which actions are in the name of our God and which aren’t. God is very specific when it comes to putting His name on something. The broader context illustrates the kind of things God is willing to stamp with His name.
God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient (Colossians 3:12).
The passage goes on to talk about forgiveness, love, and thankfulness. Whenever our actions exhibit these characteristics we can claim to act in the name of God. However, when our actions are devoid of these characteristics we dare not claim that we are acting in the name of God.
Another defining passage can be found in the book of Philippians where the Apostle Paul writes, finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
Stay in the Word