BIBLICAL JOY
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A NEW NAME

Many years ago I performed the wedding ceremony for a young engineer/draftsman and his fiancee, the on-air personality for the local public radio station. They had met at the philharmonic. He was a percussionist. She was the lead singer with a beautiful, professionally trained voice and a following in the music world.

When it came time to plan the ceremony, I asked how they would be identified once they were “official.” He gave his last name. She gave a hyphenated version that retained her maiden name as part of her identity. They had obviously been carrying on this conversation for some time because he quickly explained that it was no problem for him, but that his “old school” father was having a problem that they would not follow the traditionally form of naming a new couple.

“I have built an identity and reputation both as a musician and a broadcaster tied to this name. My name is who I am. My name is tied to my ability to earn a living in both of these fields.  Changing my name, or giving up my name means that I lose all that I have worked so hard for. Drop the hyphen within the church family, but publicly I must go by this hyphenated name.”

To be honest, I agreed with her. It made sense. It was reasonable. Her name was very much her identity.

A name is tied to our identity. It can be a reflection of who were are. My brother-in-law is named James Craig Gordon, a rather imposing name. He goes by “Sam.” Sam is less intimidating, more laid back and comfortable. My brother-in-law is really more a Sam than a James Craig. When he was married to Kathy, he answered the questions as “Sam” because that’s who he had become.  It fits him well.

Sometimes a name change is necessary … because we are someone new. We need to make a break with the past. Our old name is tied to our old identity and we want persons to know we have changed.

Saul of Tarsus was an over-the-top Pharisee. He was a zealous; actually fanatical enemy of the church.  His contempt and rage towards the blasphemous followers of the carpenter from Galilee made him someone to be feared.

But all that changed when Saul meant Jesus on the road to Damascus. Suddenly Saul realized that he was not zealous for God, he had become the enemy of God in his persecution of Christians. But now he surrendered his life to God.  He took on a new identity as one zealous for Christ. He became the Apostle of Love instead of the Harbinger of Hate.

So Saul took on a new name. He became Paul. And he prayed people would forgive his past, and trust his leadership in the future. He wanted to become an agent of reconciliation not a disciple of destruction.

So he took on a new name. Saul became Paul.

A new name, however, means nothing if you are not truly a new person. Thanks to God’s grace and mercy, Saul now Paul, was a whole new creation.  So Saul took on a new name. Saul became Paul.

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