Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." (Matthew 24.4,5, NIV)
We religious types like to include in our prayers "in Jesus name." Most prayers tend to be learned behavior, and this is something we just learned to say along with "amen."
Ever thought about what "in Jesus name" means?
As once explained to me by a theology professor, when you do something "in the name of" someone of authority you propose to be speaking for and with that authority. For example, the King James Bible translators would have understood doing something "in the king's name" meant the speaker was claming the right to speak as if the king were speaking.
This is what we do, knowingly or not, in saying prayers "in Jesus name" -- going to God the Father as being authorized to do so by the authority of Jesus. I leave to better minds as to whether one actually goes into the throne room of God by authority personally granted by Jesus.
What concerns me are things done "in His name" which actually bring discredit to His name, and by extension to all those who claim the name "Christian."
There are two primary errors people make when determining to do this-or-that "in His name."
First is to believe they have the whole council of God and have, through research and learning, found a way to tap into the mind of God.
A certain suspicion must surround any who know what God thinks. My limited observation has been that those who have searched most thoroughly become aware they know very little. The written record leads us to understand "we know in part" (I Corinthians 13.9). If you know everything, either you are wrong or the New Testament's testimony is in error -- I choose you.
The second, and far more dangerous, error is to take one or a few isolated verses and construct one's personal ideology upon such a weak foundation. Multiple examples of such an approach can be found in all of the past 2,000-plus years, ranging from the merely despicable to the downright dangerous.
In the 1970s there was an infamous preacher in who proclaimed a gospel of prosperity based on a single verse of Scripture taken out of context and on this man's belief God was somehow obligated to bless those who contributed to the man's church. In time his followers found that God is not some kind of cosmic Ponzi scheme.
In more recent news we hear of an oxymoron called a "Christian militia." Someone found justification to defame the name "Christian" by taking up arms. I didn't care enough to investigate their rationalizations, but must assume they found what they wanted to find by emphasizing a small part at the expense of the whole counsel of God. All I am sure of is they, too, have added to the tendency of our times to cast "in Jesus name" in the worst possible light.
One might want to keep in mind that to speak "in the king's name" without having been so authorized was a capital offense, subject to the extreme penalty. Should anyone speaking without authorization "in His name" expect a lesser destiny if bringing disrepute on the Name?
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.