“Don’t call names!”
How many times as a child did you hear that from a parent?
How about this one:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”
Or maybe you heard, “stop being such a _______!” (Fill in the blank yourself – idiot, goofball, s.o.b., dumbbell, etc.)
The fact is, bad names do hurt us. Especially when someone we love uses them on us. In John Eldredge’s books, Captivating and Wild At Heart, he shows us how the names we are called by our father create the filters we view ourselves through for the rest of our lives, unless and until Father God heals them.
Jesus understood the power of this, and addressed it in Matt. 5:22, when He said that whoever calls his brother a fool is in danger of hell fire.
But where did all this name-calling come from? Why do we do it? Here’s what I think:
In Genesis 2, God told Adam to name the animals. That’s an amazing job, when you think about it! But Adam could handle it, because he was made in the image of the God who names all the stars. (Ps. 147:4)
So we were created with the ability to sort and classify and label things. And that’s a good ability to have . . . when it comes to the physical realm around us. Where would we be without the ability to classify plants or animals or minerals; to sort and identify steps in the process of sedimentation or fermentation; or to label the parts of a machine, so that replacement parts can be quickly obtained?
But, since mankind has fallen out of communion with God, our natural abilities often become problems. This ability to name is an excellent example of a good thing gone bad. While it has made scientific and technological progress possible, when it comes to naming people, it has frequently been twisted into something negative. It is easier to call someone a bad name than a loving one. It is easier to label someone, than to understand their similarities to you, and the reasons for their differences. It is easier, in fact, to label whole groups or races of peoples, rather than accept them in the ‘brotherhood of man’.
One of the reasons Jesus chewed out the Pharisees was their insistence on labeling people. They had all kinds of labels – sinners, publicans, winebibbers (doncha love that King James language?) — and Jesus hated them all! Not because they were labels, but because the labels implied value, or lack thereof.
Every name or label we stick on people has a value attached: sweetheart, honey, dear, darling, bitch, s.o.b., bastard, ignoramus, idiot, and a host of others that I refuse to either say or write. (I heard once that the more loved a person is, the more nicknames they have. The opposite is probably also true. Because names are our way of assigning value.)
Is this what Father God intended when He gave the naming ability to Adam? No. So why do we do it? Because we no longer get our value from God, so we have to get it somewhere else.
Before Adam and Eve sinned, they knew who they were, knew their value to God, knew His delight in them. But fallen man is no longer connected to Him, so no longer knows his value to God. So we try to get our value from others. From parents first, then from siblings and teachers and friends and lovers and children and bosses and . . . the list is endless. And it never really works, so we go looking again, for someone to name us with a name that will give us eternal, unending value. We may look to the same people, or to different ones, but we never stop looking.
One of the many facets of the finished work of Christ, is this one – God Himself tells us who we are. He names us.
He calls us beloved (Eph. 1:6), friends (John 15:15), sons (I John 3:2), fellow heirs (Eph. 3:6), His body (I Cor. 12:27), His workmanship (Eph. 2:10), a new creation (II Cor. 5:17), His own special people (I Pet. 2:9) and more. (That thing earlier about nicknames? He has a lot of names for you. You sure must be loved!)
As you travel on your journey farther into His kingdom, He applies more labels/names to you. He has called you all of them from before the foundation of the world, but only tells you what they are when you are ready to hear them. For instance, if you had an abusive father, it might take significant healing for you to be able to think of God as your Father, and you as his son or daughter. So He’ll wait to apply that name until you’re ready to hear it.
As you allow Him to name you, your sense of worth will increase, and you will not feel the need to decrease someone else’s worth in order to make yours seem more. So let Him name you, beloved.
We all have the ability to name. It’s in us because He put it there. But let’s use it for good, not evil. Let’s assign His values to people. God might have said that mankind is wicked, or evil, or sinful, but He never said we are worthless!!!
May you learn your true value in Father God’s eyes, not in another’s. And may that set you free to be able to give value to those around you by the names you call them.
“ . . . And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” Rev. 2:17b
FYI – While ‘grace’ and ‘faith’ take up less than one page each in Strong’s, ‘name’ takes up almost 4 pages. Must be pretty important, huh?