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What's in a Name: Part 1

Last year our students put on a stellar performance of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet which is filled to the brim with memorable lines, many of which have worked their way into our western vernacular. One such line occurs when Juliet is bemoaning the fact that her true love, that she met only hours earlier, belongs to the family of her family's sworn enemies; the Hatfields to her Macoys. She laments;

Tis but thy name that is my enemy;

Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.

What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,

Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part

Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,

And for that name which is no part of thee

Take all myself.

While we may want to look at Juliet and cheer her on, "You're right, girl, love is love no matter what the person is named," we simply must acknowledge that words, however trivial they may seem, have meaning. Sure we have different words for different things depending on language and cultural context, but those words are attached to an actual thing, or idea, or activity and when we speak about a "rose" that has real meaning to the people around us. The names we give things have significant meaning.

This truth is seen throughout the Bible. In a way that we simply cannot relate to in our modern culture, names carried with them great significance, particularly for the Hebrews. We see this in how children were named. Those names told the hearer something about that person, whether it was the hopes and dreams of the parents, something surrounding the circumstances of their birth or conception, or about their heritage. We even see God changing people's names from time to time, or command someone to name their children something specific. Certainly there is no doubt about the significance of Jesus' name and all the titles he is given; Jesus - Yahweh Saves, Messiah - the anointed one, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man. These are all expressions of the character, nature, and administration of the Second Person of the Trinity, they all mean something.

Likewise, if we call Jesus "Lord" that tells people something important about our view of Christ. Thankfully, he is Lord whether or not we admit it, but when we confess that he is, something more is being communicated than four letters put together into a word. We are communicating that he has preeminence in our lives, and is the rightful King of the entire universe.

In the same way the Bible calls believers "saints' and the people of God are known as the "church" and "the Body of Christ." All of that is significant and those words are connected, whether we agree with it or not, to real truth.

So, what's in a name? An awful lot and maybe, just maybe, that rose wouldn't smell as sweet if you called it something else.

To be continued...

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