This post is Part 2 in an ongoing series on Jesus' prayer in Matthew 6 (a.k.a., "The Lord's Prayer"). Read Part 1.
* * *
A few weeks ago, my wife and I hired a company to come to our house and clean the carpets. They did a good job, and when they were done, one of the guys came over to me and said, “You know, if you go onto Facebook and give us a good review, we’ll give you a twenty percent discount” (and of course, I did just that).
Why does a carpet cleaning company care if I write a good review on Facebook?
Because they understand that good reviews on social media websites will generate more business. Every good review contributes to their overall reputation, and in this world of online sharing and opinion giving, a reputation can make or break a small company. Before the Internet, the general understanding was that if you received good (or bad) service from a company, you would tell two friends (and they would tell two friends, and they would tell two friends, etc.). But now, with the click of a button, a person can tell every single other person that they know. A company’s reputation can be made or destroyed over the course of a busy afternoon.
In the ancient world, they didn’t use the word “reputation.” They used the word “name.”
A name was not merely a word you would use to talk about someone; a person’s name was their very essence in the world—it was who they were and how other people perceived them.
There are places in the New Testament where followers of Jesus are talking about their work and travel, and they will say something like, “We do all of these things in the name of Christ Jesus.” They are not merely saying that they throw around the name of Jesus whenever they do something, as if it were a catchphrase. They are saying that they are engaging the world with someone else’s reputation in mind.
In this series, we’re looking at Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6 (The Lord’s Prayer). Jesus begins his prayer by saying, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
“Hallowed be God’s name” was a common Hebrew expression: Kiddush Hashem.
Kiddush Hashem means to interact with other people in such a way that they would love God even if they don’t know God.
Lois Tverberg writes this:
"The rabbis described [Kiddush Hashem] as one of three things: to live a life of integrity; to do some heroic deed, like risking one’s life to save another; or even to be martyred to honor God” (Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus. 87.)
The whole idea is for people to perform good deeds with God’s reputation in mind.
So when Jesus prays “hallowed be your name,” he is praying that God’s reputation would be beloved all over the earth and that the people who know God would be the agents of that sentiment.
Conversely, there were ways that people were known for profaning the name of God. Basically, if you publicly did something evil and associated God with it, you were profaning God’s name.
So if someone has ever told you that God hates someone, they are profaning God’s name.
If someone has ever used the name of God to leverage their position of power to manipulate, control, or abuse other people, they are profaning God’s name.
Jesus begins his prayer by acknowledging how much power humanity has regarding God’s reputation.
Jesus is not saying, “May we say the name of God as often as possible and with as much self-righteousness as we can muster.” Rather, he is saying, “May we live in such a way that will make people see how loving, beautiful, and redemptive this God really is.”
So what do we do?
We think of others when we want to think of ourselves.
We give when we want to take.
We stop trying to control other people and simply allow them to engage their own journeys.
We seek to make the world a better place.
As we perform these acts, we are praying with our bodies, "Kiddush Hashem."