My father’s mealtime prayer came to mind when I overheard a disgusted father say to his young son, “For Christ’s sake, can’t you close the door without slamming it!” Dad’s prayer ended with those three words: “Bless Heavenly Father this food to our use and ourselves to Thy service, for Christ’s sake, Amen.” Strange, I thought, that those three words can have two different meanings.

When I examined the history of the phrase, I was surprised to learn that its use today is considered more vulgar than sacred. Centuries ago, the words were used to acknowledge that our “service” is done “for Christ,” or “on account of” what Christ has done for us. The word “sake” has to do with the motivating cause of something we do, as in “For the sake of the poor, we serve hot meals every day at the Mercy House.” So, providing food for hungry people is something we may do “for Christ’s sake.”

Sad it is that over time, “for Christ’s sake” has become a colloquial expression used to express disgust, outrage, contempt, surprise and even boredom and frustration. A gentler synonym that is heard sometime is “for heaven’s sake.” So, good people, without realizing it, are now guilty of blasphemy, using Christ’s name sacrilegiously, when they express their frustration or disgust by beginning a sentence with the words, “For Christ’s sake.”

On the other hand, if we love Christ because of what He did for us, we should be doing things for Him; in other words, serving others “for Christ’s sake.” In one of his devotionals in “Morning By Morning,” Charles Spurgeon asks a disturbing question: “How will you feel when your Master comes, if you have to confess that you did nothing for Him, but kept your love shut up, like a stagnant pool, neither flowing forth to His poor or to His work?” He responds to his own question by declaring, “Who will accept a love so weak that it does not actuate you to a single deed of self-denial, of generosity, of heroism, or zeal!”

It is interesting that Spurgeon lived during the 19th century when “for Christ’s sake” was a sacred phrase, used often in prayers to invoke or seek the support of the Savior who redeemed us from our sins. Spurgeon even said “for Christ’s sake” can be like a “tongue of fire” that makes us “bold as lions and swift as eagles” in the Lord’s service. When we think of how Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us, the very power of His love should “give wings to the feet of service, and strength to the arms of labor.”

When I consider that Christ died on the cross for me, that He has forgiven my sins, that He has set my feet upon a rock, that He has given me peace with God, that He has written my name in His book of life, that He has prepared a place for me in the Father’s House, that He has had mercy upon me every time I have failed Him, that He has blessed me with His strengthening presence for 90 years, that He has guided me patiently through the valley of sorrow, I should be ashamed not to constantly use every gift and resource at my command “for Christ’s sake” until my last breath.

What, in these days, are you doing for Christ’s sake?