What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare)

“Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place
 and gave him the name that is above every name...” (Phil. 2:9, NIV)

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet claims that Romeo’s family name should not matter, even though her family and Romeo’s family are feuding. To her, such a small thing is not as important as the love they share. However, both of these star-crossed lovers soon learn that names do have significant meaning.

It is hard to get away from the negative aspects of our names. On the other hand, living up to a name can be even more challenging.

In virtually every human culture, the naming of a child is a significant event. Children with uncommon names often learn that important family stories and memories are attached to names. Indeed, when we are given names, there are often significant expectations attached. We are expected to “live up” to the name we have. We are challenged to “preserve” the good name of our family by living lives that bring honor to ourselves and to those closest to us.

Jesus’ own name was actually quite common in His day. It was a derivative of the biblical hero Joseph and means something like, “The LORD saves.” Naming rituals were significant in ancient times, and the name chosen for Jesus was to carry particular significance. It served as a consistent reminder that He was on a mission from God. However, it is likely that there were many children named Jesus (or some derivative of that name) in His village and in surrounding areas.

What would separate this Jesus from all the rest?

The answer to this question is not about what name we are given but in how we use the name we are given! How do we live our lives?

This week, can we remember that, when we become followers of Christ, we become people who live and act “in His name” (see Mark 16:17). We bear a new “family name,” and it is an important one—one that is “above every name” (Phil. 2:9, NIV).

As bearers of the name of Jesus, we are called to walk in the ways of Jesus. We continue bringing glory to this exalted Name by walking, acting, and trusting the way Jesus did. He empowers us to do so by His Spirit, and this work of the Spirit changes our priorities and our very nature. This keeps us from being Christians “in name only.” Instead, we are those who, through the leadership of God’s Spirit, are growing into the Name we have now been given.

Prayer for the Week:

Lord Jesus, may we remember that we are called by Your Name. May we live in Spirit-led ways that bring glory and honor to Your Name – to Your reputation—so that Your kingdom may continually be built. Amen.

Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.

Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.