What’s in a Name?

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“…That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

These lines are from the play Romeo and Juliet. Juliet utters these famous words in an attempt to tell Romeo that a name is meaningless to her. The fact that he is from a family that hates her family is of no consequence to her. That’s a nice ideal, it’s nice to say that a name is simply a construct and matters very little, but it’s not always that easy to live out.

Recently I’ve had to shift my thinking in regards to my name and my reputation. I’ve always imagined that I would write both fiction and non-fiction and had it set in my mind exactly how it would come about. I figured that I would write some fiction and publish it under my name and write my Christian living under a pseudonym or a pen-name, which sounds a little silly now, but that was how I always envisioned my life playing out. Yet, lately, I’ve been focusing heavily on writing about my life and what God’s doing, instead of crafting stories of fiction. My timetable has been flipped on its head.

“I trust you with my name” 

This has been my consistent prayer over the past few weeks. As I go about my day, I find myself uttering “I trust you with my name” often. Our names, whether Juliet believed it or not, are important and they are wrapped up in our reputation. When you hear the name “Trump” or “Beyonce” or “Steve Jobs” you immediately think of something: an emotion, an opinion, a product. Our names are important and we spend a great deal of time protecting our precious reputation.

There are numerous people in the Bible who had to learn to trust God with their names. Abram, Sarai, and Simon all had a name change because their previous reputation, their previous name, no longer suited them. Abram went from “exalted father” to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude”. Think about that for a moment. Abram lived through his child-making years with the name “exalted father” without having any children. When God changed his name to “father of a multitude” Abraham had one son, a far cry from the millions God promised. Abraham had to trust God with his name.

God is consistently inviting us to trust him with our names and reputations. What’s amazing to me is that the trust is reciprocal. When you become a Christian, when you accept that mantle, God is entrusting you with his name. Exodus 20 contains the 10 Commandments that were handed down to the nation of Israel, among which you’ll find “don’t murder”, “don’t steal,” and “obey your parents”. There’s one commandment, in particular, that’s quoted often but understood less than the others:

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

We’re used to thinking of this in the narrow view of the name of God and, while it’s good to use the name of the Lord with reverence, this commandment’s meaning could be much broader. The word “name” could also be translated “reputation”. When we identify as Christians, God is trusting that we’re representing him well. As Jesus followers, we are the ones called to be his hands and feet on the earth. How are we doing? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I do really well and other times I’m just lousy. When Jesus would choose to love a person or give grace to them, my first instinct often times is to be judgmental or unhelpful. I can get so caught up in my selfish pursuit of my own name that I neglect caring for His reputation. I suspect that if we chose to live in a way that honors His reputation our personal names would be taken care of.

I’m choosing to trust God with my name by focusing on stewarding the mantle of Christ-follower well. God is entrusting me with his name and I am choosing to trust him with mine, he surely won’t disappoint.

To go Deeper: Read What’s in Your Name


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