What's in a Name?

by Barbara Ann Oliver

I was born in West Virginia. My grandmother was Maybelle Hatfield, before she married. One of my Hatfield aunts is married to a McCoy. Nearly everyone in the USA has heard of the historic feud between these two infamous families. And though it is fun to joke about being a Hatfield, it is not really a name to be proud of.

Names are so important. A girl in one of my karate classes was about fourteen, overweight, and very shy. She told the instructor her last name was Jones. A few weeks later, her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Butts, came to the school to find out why they had gotten a bill for a little girl named Jones. She was embarrassed about her last name. She was tired of being teased. She wanted to re-create herself.

Another young fellow’s father had deserted his family for another woman. He now had a stepfather who loved him and wanted to adopt him. When he went to school for the first time, he gave his stepfather’s last name as his own and cried inconsolably when they told him he couldn’t use that name.

God considers names important. A few examples? He changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 35:10). He named Ishmael (Genesis 16:11) and Isaac (Genesis 17:19), and renamed Abram and Sarai (Genesis 17:5,15). He also named John and Jesus (Luke 1:13,31).

Our Father has adopted us as sons, and each day we strive to re-invent ourselves in his likeness. And, oh, how proud we should be that God has renamed all his sons “Christian” (Acts 11:26, 1 Peter 4:16).

Let us hold fast to that name (Revelation 2:13).

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Barbara A Oliver

Barbara Ann Oliver has worked with the church in Costa Rica for many years and serves as the associate editor for Forthright Magazine.

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