"What numbers are to a
mathematician and what colors are to a landscape artist,
names are to Christian language." -- Eugene Peterson,
The Jesus Way.
From Aaron to
Zophar, the Bible is full of names.
Ever wondered why? We find many of them unpronouncable and
most of them fairly uninteresting. They belong to people
far away in both time and
But names matter.
Names give color to a
black-and-white world. They transform the ordinary into
the intimate, and change people into
persons. If I speak of "my wife" I
reduce her to just one married female among
many. But her name -- Kim -- adds personhood and history,
connection and intimacy. When I use her name I no longer objectify
her; I personalize her. I define her by
more than a label. Kim's name elevates her. Mysteriously,
it makes her more real, as it does for all of
Have you noticed that we demonize our
enemies by refusing to use their names? We assign them
labels, not names. They become "him, her, them,
opponents, enemies, militants, etc." We depersonalize
them, to make our retribution and violence
Names matter. And they deserve our careful attention,
because the Lord gives them His highest
renaming Abram to Abraham (Gen 17:5) or Jacob to Israel
(Gen 32:28); whether it's mentioning Muppim, Huppim, and Ard (Gen
46:21) or delivering a prophetic message through names
like Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isa 8:3-4) or Jesus (Matt
1:21), we dare not diminish the importance of any
The Lord calls us by name and
prepares a new name for us (Rev 2:17).
horrible with names" betrays either our ignorance of this
truth (that names matter) or our tendency to resist intimacy.
If I don't care enough to know your
name, how much do I care for
Names are foundational to Christian
language because they're foundational to
When we speak to people, let's
use their names. When we speak about people,
let's use their names. And let's be glad that He
knows our name, not because He knows all things but
because He cares.
In HOPE -