Monday, October 12, 2020

What's in a Name?

By Adam Faughn

     A city in the Canadian province of Quebec is trying to change its name but is having trouble coming up with suitable  replacements.  The  plan  is  to  put  forward  a  few  choices  (they  prefer  four)  to  the  city  for  a  vote,  but  they  are struggling to come up with four choices that are popular enough to put before voters.
     But,  why  would  the  city  want  to  change  its  name  in  the  first  place?  The  city  was  named  for  a  local  industry  that helped  it  stay  strong  economically,  even  if  it  was  never  a  large  city  (in  the  2011  Canadian  census,  the  population was slightly over 7,000). They were proud of their industry, until recent years, as the material they mined has been linked to many physical problems, including cancer. So, for a few years, the city government has been trying to figure out a way to change the name. They settled on the voting plan, which was paused due to Covid-19, but now they are struggling to come up with a suitable list of replacement names to put before the town voters.
     So, what is the name of this small city in Quebec that is trying to change its name? Asbestos.
     It might be a good idea to change such a name because of the link between that substance and cancer (and other issues). It just seems like something that would be wise to do.
     However,  that  city's  decision  is  also  another  reminder  of  the  power  of  names.  When  we  name  a  child,  we  think about it seriously. Names are chosen based upon family history or a favorite person from the Bible or some other factor. When companies choose a name, they will spend hours (and often thousands of dollars) to think about just the right name for themselves, one that will be memorable and will reflect their brand. Recently, Seattle named its expansion  NHL  franchise,  and  there  were  all  sorts  of  buzz  about  it,  as  they  tried  to  choose  something  that  was "cool" and also fitting of the city/region and the sport. (They settled on the Seattle Kraken.)
     Names mean things and are very important to us. They reflect something, and that is also true in religion. Recently, I was driving by a denominational church building, and on the marquee outside, they proudly proclaimed what type of church they are. No less than five descriptive words were given to try to distinguish themselves as a denomination. Several years ago, I remember driving through a rural part of Alabama on the way to a speaking engagement. As  I  drove,  I  passed  a  tiny  church  house.  The  name  of  that  church  (if  I  remember  correctly)  was  the  "Pentecostal House of Apostolic Holy Praise in Jesus," and that name was followed by some letters to distinguish it even further!
     When  people  ask  you  about  where  you  worship,  how  do  you  answer?  Are  you  proud  to  simply  say,  "I'm  a  Christian?" Are you grateful that you can say, "I belong to Jesus?" Do you say, "I attend the Church of Christ," and do so with thanksgiving in your heart?
     In the New Testament, there were not long, convoluted names for the church. "Churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16); "Church of the Firstborn" (Hebrews 12:23); "The Way" (Acts 9:2; cf. John 14:6); "The Church of God" (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Timothy 3:5). These and a handful of other simple names show us what Jesus desires for His people to focus on in our name. The only distinguishing "addition" was their location (e.g., Corinth, Rome, Crete, Laodicea, etc.).
     It is not some other person in Scripture like John or outside of Scripture like Luther. It is not some particular doc-trine like baptism or church organization. It is not even how apostolic or holy or filled with praise we might be. And it is not some physical distinction, such as the majority race or ethnicity of the members.
     We are Christians. And that is a name we never have to change, alter, add to, detract from, or be ashamed of. It re-ally is enough to simply belong to Him and to enjoy the privilege of wearing His name.
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.

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