It is interesting trying to order a sandwich these days. In almost every eating establishment the sandwiches all have names. Not names like “ham and cheese, turkey and swiss, grilled cheese, or BLT,” but names. A few of the selections in one place I like to eat include “The Mary, Queen of Scots, The Ellis, The Dunbar, The Lady Jane, and The Brave Heart,” among others.
The perfect name
A recent trip to that sandwich shop made me start thinking about names. Most people spend a lot of time trying to decide on the perfect name to give their child. Sometimes it takes people the full nine months of pregnancy to decide on a name! Of course, this just underscores the importance placed on a name. Not only do we think names are important, but God does also.
The importance of a name
Names are pretty important in the Bible. People, places, and things are given names reflecting something significant. A place was called Bethel because that meant “the house of God.” Jacob in the Old Testament and Saul in the New Testament both had name changes by God to reflect the significant transformation of their lives - Jacob became Israel and Saul became Paul.
Perhaps most significantly, believers in Jesus became known as “Christians.” The first century followers of Jesus literally bore His Name. He was Jesus. Not just the fairly common Jewish name of Yeshua, but Yeshua Hamashia, or “Jesus, the anointed one," the Messiah (Hebrew), or the Christ (Greek). As the Christian faith spread throughout the ancient Hellenistic world, this Jesus was identified and separated from others with a similar name by his descriptive title, “the Christ.” In Antioch, followers of Jesus were first called by His Name. They began to be called "Christians."
a name proclaims identity
Have you ever thought about what it means to have a certain name? A name speaks of who you are, a focal point of identity. It locates you in terms of family heritage, as well as your own personality and character traits. “Sally is so sweet, Robert is really funny, Fran is exceptionally smart, Joe is such a hard worker,” are all common ways in which we see how our name and our identity are connected. Our name also reflects the impact we have had on others, whether we are called lazy or diligent, kind or mean, truthful or a liar.
When someone who knows me hears my name, whatever they think of me or have heard about me comes to mind.
However I have treated them, whatever they have seen or heard, whatever has been their experience of me, or what they have heard from the experiences others have had of me, all of this is represented to them when they hear my name.
They also hear the name Christian and the Name of Jesus associated with my name. That is quite an honor and quite a responsibility.