What’s a name? It’s an identifier. It helps us know what to call a specific disease or condition. It pinpoints a location. It makes things personal. It is by names we can recognize things for what they are.
Back in biblical times names held great importance because of their meanings.
“The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.” Genesis 25:25-26 NIV
Jacob means “he grasps the heel“, a Hebrew idiom for “he deceives.” And he lived up to that. He deceived his father Isaac into giving him, instead of Esau, the birthright of the first born. He was a trickster, a manipulator.
“Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’ ” Genesis 32:28 NIV
“God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.’ So He named him Israel.’ ” Genesis 35:10 NIV
Israel means “may God prevail; he struggles with God.” Not only does the name fit Jacob, but also for the nation of Israel that came forth from his twelve sons. It was suitable for Jacob’s life and a foreshadowing of the nation of Israel’s struggle with God.
Another example would be Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law.
” ‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.’ ” Ruth 1:20-21 NIV
Naomi means “pleasant,” whereas Mara means “bitter.” She changed her name to be a reflection of the circumstances in her life. Though she experienced a great deal of grief and sorrow – moving to a foreign land, losing both sons and her husband, resulting with her to move back to her homeland without a provider – this season did not last forever. Through her daughter-in-law Ruth and her eventual marriage to Boaz, Naomi was restored provision and an heir.
“Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’ ” Ruth 4:14-15 ESV
Depending on which country of origin you’re looking at my name can mean “bravery, courage, valiant, alert or wakeful, vigilant in battle, vigorous, honorable, or proclamation of peace.” Quite honestly, most of the time I do not feel like any of this. If anything, I likely feel the opposite – weak, lonely, tiresome. God calls us to be strong and courageous. Bravery isn’t about taking risks; it means standing steadfast against opposition, fighting against the lies of Satan, pressing on when faced with adversity and the unknown. It is being courageous in the uncertainty. It is taking those leaps of faith when you can’t see and are unsure of where your feet may land.
One of my sister’s names means “bright as day” and she is a joy to be around. She smiles far more often than not, has a contagious laugh, and loves all those she meets. She lives up to her name. I have to wonder, what would my life be like if I truly lived up to my name? What would your life be like if you lived up to yours?
What would our lives and impact be like if we lived up to the name “Christian“?
The root in Christian is “ianos,” which in Greek means to “be patterned after something.” That being said, Christian means to “be patterned after Christ.”
“THE CHURCH EXISTS FOR NOTHING ELSE BUT TO DRAW MEN INTO CHRIST – TO MAKE THEM LITTLE CHRISTS. … EVERY CHRISTIAN IS TO BECOME A LITTLE CHRIST. THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF BECOMING A CHRISTIAN IS SIMPLY NOTHING ELSE.” CS LEWIS
Are we really living that out? We call ourselves that, identifying with the Christian faith, but is it an accurate description of us?
Christ is humble. He is compassionate. He forgives. He loves unconditionally. He is patient and slow to speak, but quick to listen. He does not hold grudges. He extends grace. He is full of life and exhibits joy. He welcomes us with outstretched arms. He speaks truth instead of lies. He looks past the sin, past the outward appearance, and loves the sinner.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 ESV
This is the influence of a Christian who lives out their name, their calling; to be salt and light. Are we like this? Are we living out the name Christian? Are we seasoning this world with Christ-like love and grace? Are we being His vessels of light in a world of darkness? Are we going over to next-door neighbors and all the way to the most hidden places of the world with His truth? Or are we being trampled under feet for being unsalty? Are we truly being hypocrites, who say and claim one thing, but whose lives are contradictory?
“THE WORLD IS WATCHING TO SEE WHETHER CHRISTIANS ARE DIFFERENT OR NOT.” ALISTAIR BEGG
If we aren’t living like this, then how are we living and what needs to change? What needs to change so we are living up to our name, our identifier, “Christian“?