Many people have had nicknames growing up. Some of them were insulting. Some of them were just strange. Others were relating an individual to something else. Others were shortening of a proper name of the person.
“Captain” was sometimes used in my childhood (thank you, Star Trek). Ian is pretty hard to make a nickname out though (except with rhymes, which aren’t quite the same) . I was (to my face) spared nicknames. It probably also had to do with doing my best to blend in the background.
A new name was an ancient concept. Abram became Abraham. Jacob became Israel. Both received new names as they crossed a certain line of faith in and relationship with God.
Simon (Hebrew)/Peter (Greek) /Cephas (Aramaic) received a name. As near as we can tell, he was a passionate follower of Jesus. Would the comparison of Abraham or Israel apply? It didn’t seem so immediately. Upon the resurrection, though, it seems that Peter did indeed cross “the line”.
James and John were given a joint nickname. Their name has been hypothesized in many ways. My favorite is the easiest. Their father was a very LOUD man.
I shared an office with such a person. If he entered the office, I didn’t answer the phone or got off the phone, because it was hard to hear another person when this man talked in his normal tone. Imagine him yelling then (that happened…in the office…many times). That’s how I see Zebedee.
What does that tell us about James and John? They were probably loud, too. Maybe not quite to their dad’s level, but close enough! That’s my thought, anyway.
Have we forgotten the power of names? The Harry Potter series had a villain “who must not be named.” In the “world” of Harry Potter, names had power.
As a rule, Christians no longer write G-d, or Y-H, or something else. Many reverent Jews still will not write the name of God, or even the title. “Lord” is the translated euphemism for names of God.
Yet, in other ways, we recognize and abuse the power of names: Trump, Biden, Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative. Often names are used to quell dissension and discussion.
Other emblems of courtesy, such as “Mister, Missus, Miss, Ma’am, Sir” are falling into disuse. While these are titles, more than names, yet these too are power. That is actually part of the reason they have fallen into disuse. They grant power to others.
That is the odd thing about names. They provide power and identity for ourselves. They can also provide power to others. They can also destroy. Like many such things, the power to destroy is very easy.
The power to destroy seems to give us power. Yet, by tearing another person down, we often display the very weakness we are trying to hide.
- Have you ever had or given a nickname? What was the reason behind it? What was the feeling behind it?
- Have you ever wanted to (or did) change your given name? Why?
- What name of yours defines you best?
Jesus, the Name Above All Names, thank you for drawing us into your family. May we be worthy of your name. Amen.