More Than a Name

Names used to have meaning. Not so much anymore.

My first name, Clinton, apparently derives from a surname which referred to the original name-sake’s hometown. This, of course, was not what my parents intended when they named me. And, no, I was not named after Bill or any other politician. What my parents wanted was a relatively unique name that wasn’t so crazy that I would get beat up every day in school. They weren’t concerned with the meaning of the name, but mostly with how it sounded, and if they would get tired of yelling it (they most likely did).

On the other hand, many biblical characters have names with meaning. Some, not so good (Jacob means “he who grasps the heel,” which is a funny way of saying he is a cheater). Some, just plain funny (like Uz and his brother Buz, which, as far as I know, don’t mean anything…but they speak for themselves).

“Rebekah” is an interesting name. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), her name may have roots in Arabic, where the related words mean “a tie-rope for animals,” or even the knot in the rope. Related Hebrew words refer to young, fattened calves, or the stalls where they are tied up.

I’m sure her parents meant well, but having a name that could be translated as “noose” or “cow” doesn’t seem that great. Of course, they probably meant that her beauty could capture men’s hearts, or that she was lovely and valuable like a well-raised calf. I still think I would have thought twice about giving my daughter that name.

Fortunately, today the name “Rebekah” does not carry such meanings (I have to be careful because I have a sister-in-law who bears that name). But the dual nature of the biblical character’s name speaks a lot about the dual nature of her life. Though she began as a charming young woman who could “tie men up” with her kindness and beauty, she ended up as a deceitful noose, showing favoritism to one of her two twins, lying to her husband and encouraging her favorite son to trick his brother out of the benefits of being firstborn. She could have chosen to fulfill her name either way, as a precious young calf, or as an ugly cow. She chose both. (see P.S. below)

We, as Christians, find ourselves in a similar situation. The name “Christian” literally means “Christ-follower,” and denotes all the faithfulness, sacrifice, and devotion that should accompany such a life. But, to the popular culture, “Christian” has taken on other meanings: judgmental, hypocritical, narrow-minded, etc.

So, we find ourselves at a crossroads, like Rebekah. It is not enough to live up to our name. We must live up to what our name is supposed to mean. We must become true Christians. We must become “Christ-followers.”

P.S. – to be fair to Rebekah, the incident where she lied and deceived is the only negative, sinful story that the Bible records about her. It could have been an anomaly, and is no worse than the lying, deceit, lust, addiction, pride, or greed we have all been guilty of on occasion.

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4 thoughts on “More Than a Name

  1. Your parents, like mine, probably used your middle name at times when they needed you immediately. It was nice of them to name you after me. About 23 years after me. Nice article, especally the PS.

    • You know better than that, Clint…….you know very well that my parents never yelled at me. It was always my brother’s fault.

      And you would have to ask my parents about whether or not I was named after you.

  2. “But, to the popular culture, “Christian” has taken on other meanings: judgmental, hypocritical, narrow-minded, etc.”

    The popular culture feels this way b/c we have not stood up to the PC movement. There was a time in his country when being a “Christian” was the expected norm. Now it a badge of shame to those who will not stand up & be counted!

    Judgmental…what a joke. When wrongs are pointed out we are called judgmental. Isn’t that what John the Baptizer did when he said ‘bring forth fruits, meet for repentance? Isn’t that what Jesus did when he said ‘woe to you 7 times’. Isn’t that what Paul did to Peter, the churches he wrote to, and those that left the faith? Isn’t that what preachers do every Sunday? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do for our brothers and the lost?

    Hypocritical…When we sin we are called hypocrites. What about the progressives who condemn us at every turn? So many PC’s claim that we should exclude God from every facet of our lifes. Yet when something goes wrong. Who do they blame 1st–God? How could God let this happen…they whine! The 1st words out of their mouth when they are angry are G– D– it! Their profanity belies their real belief in the all supreme being.

    Narrow Minded…Those who claim to be so open-minded are in fact the MOST narrow minded. They claim that ‘we should accept everyone’. Well guess what they don’t accept Christians. Their lack of acceptance shows the hypocrisy of their position. If they were truly open-minded they would accept Christians and leave us alone. Instead they work to trample us under foot at every oportunity.

    P.S. Don’t get me going on a Monday morning!!!

    LM

    • Larry,
      Sorry for getting you going on a Monday…I actually wrote this on Friday, so I’m not entirely sure it is my fault…anyway…

      This is not an issue we could have resolved by standing up to the PC movement…every attempt would have made (and did make) those negative impressions of us worse. The answer is to love them and serve them: “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:20-21)

      I truly believe there is a lot of merit to the negative terms applied to us. We have done more than just point out wrong, we have looked down on those who do it. That, in turn, also makes us hypocritical since we are sinners, too.

      And, just some food for thought…every example you referenced of preachers pointing out the wrongs of others (John the Baptist, Jesus, the apostles, etc.) was an example of correcting the religious…the Jews in the case of Jesus and John the Baptist (usually Pharisees), or Christians (or fallen away Christians) in the apostles’ preaching and letters. Those corrected and condemned were people who had (or thought they had) a commitment to God. However, the way they deal with non-believers is distinctively different (in Jesus’ case, think of the tax-collectors and sinners, and in Paul’s case I am thinking of Acts 17 when he speaks to the Areopagus).

      There is a way to stand for what is right and against what is wrong while going out of our way to love and serve (and forgive) those who do those wrong things. That’s the way Jesus did it (and He was called many things, but never a hypocrite or judgmental).

      And besides all that, whether we are rightly or wrongly called judgmental and hypocritical and narrow-minded is not all that important. The fact that many see us that way has been established, and now our job is to figure out what to do about it. How can we correct it? How can we respond in sincere love to those who think such things? If those labels are wrong, then it is only our love that is going to prove them so.

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