Sunday, April 29, 2007

What's in a Name?

In the western movie Open Range, Robert Duvall (“Boss”) and Kevin Costner (“Charley”) have a serious conversation just before they are to confront a murderous gang. Charley wants to know Boss’s name; he has worked for the boss for ten years but has never known his name. Now that they may die together, Charley insists that they exchange names. It’s important.

Charley goes first, saying his name is something like Charles Hiram Postlewaite. “Okay,” he says, “what’s your name?”

After some prodding, Boss confesses that it is “Bluebonnet Spearman”—no middle name, nothing else. He swears Charley to secrecy, never to tell anyone, and they shake hands. This is a hilarious, solemn moment, just before the big gun battle, but Charley does not crack a smile. He needed to know, just in case.

For some reason, we need to know people’s names. Our name is an intimate part of who we are.

My parents named me Judith Ann, but all my life, I’ve been called “Judy.” When I was a child, back in the dark ages, there were plenty of Judys, but nobody went by “Judith.” It was thought to be very formal. But now, I hardly ever run across another Judy, only “Judith.” I found a web site, linked here, that says 448,037 people in the United States are named Judith. (Hmmm, whatever that’s worth?!)

Names are important in the Bible. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says to Solomon, “ . . . if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Those who are called by his name are like the sheep of his flock. He knows his sheep, and they know him. Jesus said, in John 10:3-4, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

He calls us by name—Karen, John, Marlaina, Angel, Jan, Maxey, Jim, Rhyan. He knew our names before we were born. He knows who we are and where we are and what we think, feel, and intend. He wants us to be his sheep, called by his name.

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