I’ve never met a person who didn’t have a name (other than newborn babies whose parents had procrastinated). In every society on earth, names are demanded in order to distinguish one from another. If you don’t have a name, someone will quickly attach one. Often we are given an additional name — a nickname — based on some attribute others see in us.
Which leads me to wonder: Does God give nicknames?
In John 1:42 we learn that Jesus gave a new name to Simon, brother of Andrew. “And [Andrew] brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, ‘You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated, A Stone)” (NKJV). Jesus was not demeaning Simon’s character by that name; it was a compliment. In Simon, Jesus saw someone who would one day be a symbol of strength in the kingdom of God.
Mark, in listing the apostles, tells of another naming: “James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Luke helps us understand why Jesus gave such a curious name to these men. After some Samaritans refused to allow Jesus and his disciples to enter their town, James and John urged the Lord to call down fire from heaven to destroy that place (Luke 9:54). In this case, the name was not a compliment. It did, however, show the Lord’s perception of their true character.
The church to which I minister recently provided name tags for all its members. What would happen if on Sunday we discovered that the Lord had changed the names? In place of the names our parents gave us, we would find instead our God-given name. How many of us would like that? Would my name tag read “Gossip Lover,” “Power Seeker,” “Hothead,” or “Two-Faced”? If the Lord named me as he named others, would I be proud to wear that name tag?
In spite of our flaws, God is patient with us. John identifies the best name that can be bestowed by God: “Behold what manner of love the father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! …” (1 John 3:1). As long as I know I’m a child of the king, there’s hope for me.
What name would the Lord give to me?