Names Matter

May 4, 2023
What’s in a name?

“So she named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are El-roi.” (Gen 16: 13)

Hagar, an enslaved woman, impregnated by her mistress’s husband and then cast out and abandoned, is met in the wilderness by God. She is the first in the Scripture to name God: El-roi—God who sees.

Generations later, another enslaved person, Moses, encounters El-roi in the wilderness, in the apparition of a burning bush. But he does not know this name and says to the enlightened one, “If they ask, ‘what is his name, what shall I say to them?’” The name offered is not fully translatable but is considered to mean, “I am,” or “I will be who I will be.” It is considered so holy that Jews do not speak the name.

God names some of the people in Scripture: Abram becomes Abraham, and Sarai becomes Sarah, and Jacob becomes Israel. John the baptizer, and Jesus both received their names from God.

“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God,
for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20: 7)
Naming matters.
It defines relationships, unites families, and often confers power to the one who gives the name for another. It binds a person to their word and their works. The way we use another’s name can hurt or help us connect.

Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am.” He was asking about how his life and ministry was understood by them. He was asking whether the witness he offered to the people was helping them understand the relationship God wanted with them.

Names matter. Have you had your name mispronounced? Or been confused with another? Or been forgotten? Have you had nicknames you loved, given by people you cared about? Or names you wanted to get rid of but couldn’t?

Imagine for a moment spending your entire life being called by the wrong name? Imagine not being able to convince people to use your proper name? Such disrespect is almost inconceivable. Yet, across our county and nation, lawmakers are prohibiting people from naming themselves, and choosing pronouns that match their name. “Who do you say that I am,” our trans neighbors want to know. Their teachers are being forbidden, or freed from being required, to call students by their chosen names.

St. Andrew is a beacon of peace and love where everybody belongs for such a time as this!
Let us, called by the name of Christ Jesus, who believe that human beings bear the image of God, who love God, always love our neighbors as ourselves. When they ask us, “who do you say I am,” use the name by which they introduce themselves, and the pronouns they request, just like you do for every other human being you meet. Just like you want when you introduce yourself.

Really, it is that simple. Even Shakespeare got it, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”