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Monday, November 20, 2006

A rose by any other name...

An interesting little verse in the book of Revelation came to my mind through Mr. Mike Brown in our Bible study discussion on Sunday:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (NIV Revelation 2:17)

What is the point of receiving a new name? Names seem to be equivalent to the imparting of meaning. My name gives me meaning to other people and to myself as well. Ever heard a little kid get all defensive if you say his/her name wrong? Or if you say something like, "No, your name is not Kayla, my name is Kayla." And the defensiveness kicks in: My name is my name, not yours. Go get your own name, buddy.

Names mean something - they define us.

So, what is the point of getting a new name? A new meaning, perhaps? Or a new identity? Hhhmmm....I don't know....because in this passage the name is only known for the recipient. And, by implication, the name is also known by the one who gave it to the recipient. But of what use is a name if only you know it??? What if I said my name was "Alvin", but I didn't tell anybody? Does that have meaning?

What good is a name if nobody else knows what it is?


marlise said...

Hmmm, very interesting question....
While reading Revelation, this verse caught my attention, too, but for very different reasons. The idea of a new secret name reminds me of a sort of nickname.
For example, my father and uncles are "nicknamers." I mean they give a nickname to just about everybody they know. Every nickname has a reason. Some represent a private joke or a funny or embarrassing story, and some represent endearing characteristics, but the bottom line for all of them is relationship. They are based on a shared experience.
For similar reasons, if I am introduced to someone new, and they mispronounce my name or call me by a completely different name, I'll correct them. When a close friend or family member calls me by a nickname, though, it makes me feel loved. It reminds me of whatever incident or private joke caused them to call me that name in the first place.
It almost seems a little irreverent to think of God using a nickname for us, but isn't it possible that these new names aren't about a new identity or personality change at all? Instead, could the new name represent a shared experience or relationship--something that only God could know about me?

Jonathan Erdman said...

That's an excellent observation....hhmmmm....rather than representing a change into something new, the new naming represents a previous connection - a connection that is unique between God and his child...something like a nickname...I like it! Good thought!

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