Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and serves as the Ward Mission Leader in the Annapolis, Maryland Ward.
Taking on a Name & Taking on the Name of Jesus Christ
William Shakespeare’s renowned play “Romeo and Juliet” is a timeless theatrical classic masterpiece. In the play Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet and fall in love despite the fact that they are doomed from the start as members of two warring families. In an effort to prove her unfaltering love for Romeo, Juliet comments, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The point that Juliet was endeavoring to make was that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention. She loved the person who is called “Montague”, not the Montague name and not the Montague family. In turn, Romeo, out of his passion for Juliet, rejects his family name and vows, as Juliet asks, to “deny (his) father” and instead be “new baptized” as Juliet’s lover.
There is a Japanese proverb that states, “Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names”. At the end of the play both Romeo and Juliet are dead, but the names Montague and Capulet live on. It was Logan Pearsall Smith, an American-born essayist and critic, who once said, “Our names are labels, plainly printed on the bottled essence of our past behavior”. And so, perhaps after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, whenever the names Montague and Capulet were mentioned, it was with a sense of melancholy, as the names of these two young lovers were brought to remembrance. Therefore, the question still begs to be asked, “Is a name merely an artificial and meaningless convention as Juliet described, or does the name which we hold have some significant relevance?”
What Jesus Christ Reveals about the Power of a Good Name
In the public mind, name “is also associated with the character or reputation of an individual who holds it, and by extension, with the family of that name and all of the members thereof.” We are taught by Jesus Christ’s inspired record, the Holy Bible, in Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.”
As a young boy growing up those who knew me well always called me by my given name which is Keith. Even though they knew my name, they still associated me with being the son of John and Frances Brown. My parents were not rich or famous by the world’s definitions, but they maintained a good name throughout the community by the lives that they lived and the examples that they set before people. People who were total strangers to me would often say hello in passing while noting that they did not know my name, but they knew that I was “John and Frances’ boy.” Because of that knowledge which they possessed, I was expected to live up to a certain standard and to protect my family’s name. Even while I was in school, having an older brother who proceeded me, most of my teachers referred to me as his younger brother, and thus expected me to live up to a certain level of academic excellence which had already been established. As a result I always strived to do the very best that I could to ensure that the Brown family name remained in good standing as far as academic achievements and excellence was concerned. This is not to say that people did not respect me for the person that I am, but they knew the name “Brown” and they knew the people who represented that name.
Our Name is a Reflection of Our Devotion to Jesus Christ; our Christian Discipleship
Having a good name, a good reputation, is a great thing, and it is something we should strive for. In Judges 6:25-32 Gideon who was known for his fight against the false god Baal becomes known as Jerubbaal (“let Baal contend”). In 3 John 12 we learn that Demetrius had a “good report of all men, and of the truth itself” and the people in the church bore record of this fact. In like manner, as Christians we should strive to have a good reputation and a good name among the church, as well as, among the people in the world, and be known for our convictions.
Striving to Speaking & Act As Representatives of Jesus Christ
As representatives of Christ to the world, our reputation reflects on Him. Therefore, we should follow the admonition of Paul as given in Titus 2:1-5: “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed”.
Paul goes on to exhort us that we should always use “sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of [us]” (Titus 2:8). In Galatians 2:20 Paul reminds us that Christ lives in each of us as he exclaims, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”. He further teaches us that if we do not live up to our name and reputation as Christians, we blaspheme the name of God. In Romans 2: 21-24 we read: “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written”.
Just as our own good name is important, it is also important to not damage the good names of others. In James 4:11-12 we are taught, “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” And in Titus 3:2 we are reminded to “speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men”.
If we as Christians do not maintain a good name and our reputation is negative, that is how people will see the church. And if that is how people see the church, what are the chances of them converting?
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