Research indicates that American employers make decisions based on people’s names, especially when those names seem to indicate that the applicant is Black or from low-income homes. Without actually meeting the persons or calling them for an interview to establish their qualities and abilities, studies show that applications are tossed in the garbage, simply because of the person’s name. That is how powerful names can be. This ability of names to impact people’s lives is not just an American phenomenon; instead, it happens around the world.
In India, organizations worked to help girls whose names meant “unwanted ” receive or pick new names with more positive meanings. The act was meant to decrease gender discrimination and to change parents’ attitudes about the importance and relevance of girls. In many cultures, personal names identify the expectations people have for children, but also names render individuals as unique human beings.
In the Bible, names matter a lot. You learn about people and their history through their names and the names they give to their children. For instance, in Exodus 18:3-4, we learn that Moses named his first son, Gershon, to signify that he had been a foreigner in a foreign land, and he named his second son, Eliezer, to denote that God was his helper, rescuing him from the sword of Pharaoh. In both cases, people knew some of Moses’ qualities and background from the names of his sons.
Names can also have negative meanings in the Bible. In 1 Samuel, Chapter 25, we meet Nabal, whose name means “fool or senseless.” What a name to give to a child! And he was a fool who almost caused the deaths of all the men in his employ by showing a lack of gratitude for David and his men keeping his flocks safe. I think that just having to live with that name was one of the reasons Nabal was so mean!
But, probably the power of a name is most demonstrated in the name given to a baby boy born in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. The prophet Isaiah prophesied of his coming, asserting that a boy child would come, and that he would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. In the fullness of time, the prophecy was fulfilled, and the child’s parents, Mary and Joseph, would name him, Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins, just as the angel Gabriel had advised them. It is in his name that we learn his qualities and of his ability to save, heal, redeem, and deliver. His name is above all other names (Philippians 2:9), and there is no other name given by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
For me, the power of his name is best told in the story in Acts 3:1-11. Peter and John were going to the Temple for a prayer service when they encountered a man lame from birth being carried in to sit by the Temple gate called the Beautiful Gate to ask for money. The apostles looked at him, and he gazed back at them eagerly, thinking that they had money to give to him. But, he got more than money, for he learned about the power of a name to change lives and make whole.
In Acts 3:6, Peter said to him, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Peter reached his hand out and helped the lame man up, and his feet and ankles were instantly healed, and he began to walk. Then he started leaping and praising God, going into the Temple with the apostles. People were astounded as they watched him walking while holding on to Peter and John.
Peter understood the power of Jesus’ name, and the name of Jesus is still powerful today. When people tell me that sometimes they do not know what to pray to God to do for them (and I have been there myself), I tell them to just open their mouths and simply utter his name, “Jesus!” He will hear them, and the power that still resides in him will help them. It may take time, but be encouraged because the name has lost none of its power or ability to heal and to save.
I found out that my name, Regina, means “queenly.” You can imagine how wonderful and unique that made me feel, having been born in poverty and expected not to accomplish much in life. I never forget the meaning of my name, and I have worked hard to live up to that name. My husband calls me his “queen.” How amazing is that?
Still, as much as my name brings me joy, the name of Jesus means so much more to me. For it is because of his name that I live, breathe, and exist. It is because of his other name, Immanuel, that I know that God is with us. Today, let us not forget that we must speak his name to everyone, so that the healing, saving, and redeeming power of his name can heal our land.
Dear Abba, Father, in Heaven,
The power of the name of Jesus still amazes and astounds me! I thank you so much for Jesus Immanuel, for you, Father, was in your Son, reconciling us to You. He took on our sins, so that we could have eternal life, just by believing in Him and that You sent Him into the world. I believe that same power will bring Him back to gather up your people, so that we can live in your presence forevermore. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.