October 28, 2013

Back to Basics

I’ve been thinking a lot about names. It started while autographing books, and realizing that one cannot assume to know how to spell today’s most common names. Parents give their children some of the oddest names; those that are made up (Michandraqueeta), signs of the times (Hashtag), fruit (Apple), to memorialize a special person (Tallulah), or the weather (Hurricane). This onomastic inventiveness may be irksome to some observers because apostrophes are placed where none is needed or because of ridiculous, unpronounceable symbols.

My given name, Hyveth, was made up by my mother. When I was a teenager living in London, England, Jewish friends said it means “life house.” I’m sticking with that meaning, despite some hilarious mispronunciations over the years.

Names matter. Names can bless or bruise. I have been called a lot of good and bad names, some deserved, and all of which—at one time or another—have had a profound emotional or psychological effect. Maybe you’ve been the brunt of derogatory names of derision and carry emotional scars that testify to the fact that words hurt more than sticks and stones. Maybe you have been the perpetrator, not the victim, like those who write cryptic, nasty, name-calling notes to authors signed “anonymous” or “no-name.” We all know, or can imagine, how a name can hurt or heal.

One name, however, is guaranteed to heal. It’s the unique, once-given name about which Jesus said: “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it”(Rev. 2:17).

The “hidden manna” is none other than Jesus Christ, the true bread from heaven (John 6:31-33). And in the Bible a name usually describes a person’s character. As a result, almost all Hebrew names were theophoric (bearing the name of God, such as Daniel, “God is my judge”). A “new name” is not the man’s or woman’s own name refreshed, but that of Christ’s (Rev. 3:12). Therefore it indicates a new character, not anything like the old in matter or meaning, but vastly different; no longer conformed “to the pattern of this world,” but “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2), and patterned after the character and nature of God. It is not reserved for “some day yonder,” but it is given at the moment of conversion or spiritual rebirth. That’s why no one else knows it except the one who experiences this rebirth (John 3:5-8).

It is written on a white stone (psephos, a pebble worn smooth by water; the refreshing Holy Spirit [Titus 3:5] or the strenuous polishing derived from trials) commonly used in ancient customs as an emblem of acquittal and victory. Jesus gave this new name to Peter (John 1:42) before evidence of Peter’s transformation made him one of the bravest apostles.

The believer, therefore, is the psephos on which the new name is written with the transforming finger of God that penned the Ten Commandments on stone (Ex. 31:18) and in the heart (Heb. 8:7-12); healed the deaf (Mark 7:33); forgave the adulterer (John 8:3-11); and cast out demons (Luke 11:20). Those who receive this new name become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), ambassadors (verse 20) with divine “power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases” (Luke 9:1).

Those who’ve tasted grace become more gracious. They change their actions, choices, friends, how they use money, look at war or politics, and become servants of God. Indeed, all things become new.

There’s more to this “name thing” than can ever be said, sung, or read. My son calls me “Mom,” my students affectionately address me as “Doc,” my church refers to me as “Pastor,” my friends call me “dear.” I don’t have a husband to call me “honey,” but I have a new name of which I’m proudest; it’s given by the King of kings and Lord of lords, my sweet Jesus!