The Power of a Name

The Power of a Name

Posted by Kevin Harris on December 24, 2018

A few months ago, this quote from Lebron James showed up on SportsCenter . . .

“I still regret giving my 14-year-old my name. When I was younger, obviously, I didn’t have a dad. My whole thing was, whenever I have a kid, not only is he gonna be a Junior, but I’m gonna do everything this man didn’t do. Only thing I can do is give them the blueprint and [they can] take their own course with it.”

Read it a little slower, and a few words jump off of the page – “regret,” “I didn’t have a dad,”
“do everything this man didn’t do” . . .

The suffixes of Junior, III, IV, etc. bring with them a sense of duty, tradition, and potentially, unhealthy and unwanted pressure. The landscape of names is changing, with individualism trumping tradition, but either way the names we’re given come with assigned meaning that shape us from birth.

My older son, Thomas Keith Harris, is named after his two grandfathers. My father-in-law, Thomas, a wonderful man of God and dedicated dad, and my late father, Keith, whom my son will only know him through the stories I tell him. My younger son, Bo, is named after my wife’s late Uncle Bo, who had an infectious zeal for life. While neither son has a Junior or III attached to their name, they are no doubt aware of the significance their names carry.

In my Bible, there is a small footnote corresponding with Matthew 1:21, the beginning of the Christmas story. The note explains that Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua. I’ve paid little attention to it until a few Sundays ago when my pastor referenced it in his sermon. And just like names today, context matters. At that time, when you heard the name Joshua you immediately thought of the message Moses gave to Joshua . . . “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6-9).

No one needed the message of strength and courage more than Joseph. God came to him in a dream and reminded him to . . . not be afraid and take Mary as his wife, both of which required strength and courage. And then he told him to give the baby boy he had nothing to do with a name . . . Jesus . . . Jesus = Joshua = be strong and courageous.

For Jews in Jesus’ day, the idea of ‘God in a bod’ was beyond them. They were expecting a much bolder entrance. Yet the Savior came in human form . . . no doubt a strong and courageous entrance. J.I. Packer, in his book Knowing God, puts it this way . . .

“God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.”

At some point over the next few days, join me in slowing down to reflect on the miracle that is the birth of Jesus . . . the strong and courageous entrance made by a baby boy. Bring him the gift of your heart . . . all of it.

Scripture: But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

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