God invites us to name ourselves as Christ followers
"Our names are labels, plainly printed on the bottled essence of our past behavior." ~Logan Pearsall Smith
When we think about what a name really is, a name is but a couple of syllables that are connected to a much larger history.
This is the background as King Solomon offered a prayer for the newly built Temple. And his prayer builds to this moment where he implores God to always pay attention to this place where God had said "God's name would be there." (1Kings 8:29).
For the Jewish audience hearing that, there's a lot of overlap between how they thought about a name and how we think about it today. For them, a name was not merely some kind of haphazard designation. The name carried the nature and essence of the object as it represented the reputation of whatever was named.
In our English language, we often refer to a person's reputation as their "good name." When somebody I know introduces me to somebody new, my first impression of that somebody new begins with the reputation of that somebody I know; that somebody I know by name. When a company is sold, part of that sale is the company's "good will," that is, the right to use the company's name.
So for those hearing Solomon's prayer, as Solomon reminded them God had said, "My name shall be there," they knew that was a powerful declaration. They knew — from the third commandment — that "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain."
That's a fairly common reading for that commandment. Yet, when some people hear that, they take it to mean that it's best to avoid using God's name when you swear. While that's great advice, there's more to it; it's "Never use the name of the LORD your God carelessly" (GOD's WORD Translation).
Jesus Christ carries this fullness of God's name. He also invited people to be at home in Him, just as He is at home in God; at home in the history and character and legacy and personality of God; as Jesus bears the fullness of God's reputation.
A reputation for "very goodness" as the Bible explains it.
Until we started to make it not so very good because we were more concerned about making a name for ourselves.
However, God's love for us is so great that we are invited to name and/or rename ourselves as Christ followers. And when we accept Jesus' invitation to name ourselves as Christians, and name ourselves as faith communities that follow Jesus Christ, we're called to bear the full reputation of God.
Which brings us to yet another case where I love the honesty of the Bible. When Jesus invited His followers to do this, they replied: "This teaching is difficult."
Yes, it is difficult to always fully and properly carry out everything that Jesus calls upon us to do. However, while there is a real difficulty with the actual doing, perhaps the bigger challenge is the difficulty that comes with consciously choosing to do so.
To make that choice to carry the name "Christian" and bear the reputation of God means we choose to always remember here in our place in the history of God's people, that we are no better than any other child of God because of our denomination, nor our skin color, our gender, political affiliation, our status in the community, our job (even when that's as a pastor), our house, car, investment portfolio…
Jesus inviting us to abide in Him as He abides in God challenges us to risk bearing the identity of our God of Creation. It calls us to accept, and work for, the "very goodness" of life that God designed and intended — and still intends — for all of Creation.
Mike Wilson is the pastor at Prineville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at 541-447-1017.