Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.'” Exodus 3:13-15
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31
One thing you and I have in common is that we were born into this world and given a name with no choice in the matter. We all have a name. In 1963, the year I was born, my given name James was the fourth most popular name. In 2017, it is still in the top ten. A lot has changed in those fifty plus years, including the names people choose to name their children. Lisa and Michael were both number one in 1963, but today Michael is at number seventeen and Lisa doesn’t make the top fifty.
It seems the world places a lot of significance and value on names. Think of the celebrities who have adopted a single or abbreviated name:
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins – aka “Adele”
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta – aka “Lady Gaga”
Kesha Rose Sebert – aka “Kesha”
Paul David Hewson – aka “Bono”
Prince Rogers Nelson – aka “Prince”
Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner – aka “Sting”
These names have become their monikers to label their celebrity. Our culture labels everyone whether they are celebrities or not. Whether verbalized or not, we are all labeled by people, and we each do a fair amount of it ourselves. A car tailgates or cuts in front of us; we have a name for that person. The doorbell rings at home and before we make it to the door; we have a name for that person. We see someone that looks and dresses differently from us; we have a name for that person. None of this labeling exemplifies Christian character, but I know I have been guilty.
I’ve also been the recipient of names from people in my life; father, brother, friend, business partner, divorced. I have also been the recipient of names from my Heavenly Father; redeemed, worthy, forgiven, and child.
You see, our given name may identify us and the world may label us, but it doesn’t define you and me. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1 John 3:1
We were defined by our Heavenly Father long before the creation of the earth. You and I have a special identity. An identity full of unconditional love. A love that affirms us completely when we don’t feel affirmation from those around us. A love that gives us hope and a purpose. A love that defines us as His children.
I believe our vapor of time here on earth is for us to sort out a couple of things before our eternal life in heaven. Namely, to identify who we are and to learn how to love the one who chose to love us first. We didn’t have a choice in how we entered this world, but we can define who we are in Christ and learn to love and accept His unconditional love for us.