Doug Johnson: Christians must be mindful to represent Christ in life

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 10, 2023

A few years ago, I heard a humorous story about a middle-aged man who was driving through town, just minding his own business, when he looked into his rear-view mirror and saw that he was being tailgated by a stressed-out woman.

Just ahead of him was an intersection with a traffic light.

Suddenly, the light turned yellow–so he stopped even though he had plenty of time to beat the red light.

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The tailgating woman hit the brakes and the horn at the same time.

She began to scream obscenities at him, because she missed her chance to get through the intersection.

While the woman was ranting and raving inside her car, she heard a tap on the window. It was a police officer!

The officer ordered her out of the car with her hands raised in the air. He took her to the police station and had her searched, fingerprinted, photographed and placed in a cell.

After a couple of hours, the police officer released the woman and returned all of her personal things.

He said, “I’m sorry for the mistake, ma’am. When I pulled up behind your car I saw the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bumper sticker, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday School’ bumper sticker, and the Christian fish symbol on your car.

Then I heard you cursing, screaming, ranting and blowing your horn at the driver in front of you so, naturally, I assumed the car was stolen!”

That story reminds us we need to be careful that our actions match up with our profession of faith. In Exodus chapter 20, we are given the Ten Commandments. The third Commandment, in verse 7, is: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”

One way that people tend to take God’s name in vain is when they use it as a by-word by declaring “Oh my God” or even worse–using it as profanity or to curse someone. Others misuse God’s name when they make promises to God and then fail to follow through with them.

There is, however, another aspect to this commandment. The word ’Christian’ means to be a Christ-follower.

So, when we call ourselves ‘Christians’ we are literally taking His name as part of our own. We are saying to the world, “I am a Christ-follower and living like Him.”

It’s okay to use the name Christian, if our actions, words, and lifestyles match up with Christ’s. But if they don’t match up, then we’re taking His name in vain!

When my wife and I were married, she took my last name as a permanent part of her name.

She was no longer Crystal Quick, she was known from that day forward as Crystal Johnson. It was an honor for me that she chose to take my name as part of her own.

However, if she had left our wedding that day, after taking my name and promising to love me only, and decided to go home and live with another man… she would have taken my name in vain and broken my heart.

The rest of the Third Commandment reads: “…for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.” By using God’s name carelessly, without any regard to its holiness or significance, we set ourselves up for judgment.

The stressed-out woman in the story had all the right bumper stickers and probably had good intentions when she placed them on her car. I’m sure she loved God and wanted to do what was right. But, in a moment of road rage, her actions sent a different message.

Let’s learn a lesson from this story and ask ourselves: “Are we living up to God’s expectations or are we simply taking His name in vain?”

Rev. Doug Johnson is the senior pastor at Raven Assembly of God in Raven, Virginia.