God in the very beginning of creation and throughout his creation started making things and naming them. “God called the light day and the darkness He called night” (Gen. 1:5). Man was made in God’s image, so God delegates authority to the man to name as well, “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called the living creature, that was its name.” It’s also interesting that when God made the woman for Adam he didn’t name her. She was his companion. But then sin came and God pronounced judgment on them. For the woman there would be pain in childbirth. For the man the ground would be hard to cultivate. For both of them there would be conflict. In Gen. 2:16, God says that her tendency will be to take his place and his tendency will be to abusively dominate her. What is the first thing that Adam does after this pronouncement of judgment? You guessed it: “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve” (Gen. 3:20).
Throughout the Bible what a person is named looms large. It’s almost always tied to their character or physical traits or the circumstances of their birth. Some examples are Isaac, Esau, Moses, Samuel, Jabez, and Barnabas to name a few. There are also instances where God changes someone’s name in a meaningful way: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, and Saul to Paul. God promises to give everyone who overcomes and perseveres in faith in Jesus Christ a new name that only He and they will know (Rev. 2:17). And how can we forget Jesus and Immanuel who is called Christ.
I guess I’m getting at this. I usually change peoples names to my liking. I call Jennifer–“j”, Jason Briggs–“Briggsie”, Amy–“Ames”, Alli–“Alli Cat”, Jack–“Jack Hammer”, and Danny–“Stupid”. Oh come on! I don’t call my son stupid! But I can be pretty fast and loose with names. You know–hippie, sucka, geek, dork, fool, and on and on. I say light things that don’t bother anyone (I think). And I’m pretty tough when it comes to names. You can call me just about anything and I’m not going to give a rip. But this whole Imus thing got me thinking.
Some of us have been called all kinds of things like “fat”, “dumb”, “ugly”, “white trash”, “nigger”, “fag”, “bitch”, or whatever else. And before long we believe it. It begins to shape who we are. The answer is not to make the world be politically correct and nice. Let’s face it, that will never happen. Not until sin is gone any way. There will always be people calling us names and we’re always going to be beating ourselves up.
But God has called us as Christians (little Christs) a few names that are dead on true. Let’s remember them and live them out as we’re called to. He calls us “saints”, “holy”, “justified”, “sanctified”, “children of God”, “redeemed”, “chosen”, “predestinted”, “loved”, “forgiven”, and “accepted”.
So the next time you’re called a name remind yourself of what God calls you in Jesus Christ. The next time we’re tempted to name call, let’s remind ourselves of the words by Paul, whose name means small: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of that moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”