“‘It isn’t Narnia, you know,’ sobbed Lucy. ‘It’s you. We shan’t meet you there [again]. And how can we live, never meeting you?’
‘But you shall meet me, dear one,’ said Aslan.
‘Are—are you there too, Sir?’ said Edmund.
‘I am,’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.’”
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Names are precious, and the way that others who share your name bring to it honor or dishonor is important. As Ecclesiastes says, “A good name is better than precious ointment . . .”
I may be more sensitive to this truth than most people, because I grew up with a modestly (in)famous name. Fewer people recognize the link today, since the Burt Lancaster film that publicized the Birdman of Alcatraz is rarely aired. When I was a kid, it seemed to be run annually, like the Wizard of Oz, and I invariably could count on someone making the name connection every time it ran.
Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. Lancaster’s portrayal of the compassionate inmate was extremely sympathetic. The connection didn’t bother me much. Well, not until I read about the genuine Robert Stroud. Not quite as appealing a human being. Enough said.
If you conduct some web searches on variations of your family name, you’ll be surprised what you find. I recently came across a fictional “relative” named Anya Stroud. She looks like someone you’d like to have at your side in an apocalyptic battle, doesn’t she? I understand she is a resident of just such a violent world, in the game system she inhabits.
Returning though to the real world . . . what we do with our name means a great deal to others who share it, especially to our family. Perhaps most of all, to our descendants. Much better for them to look back upon an honorable and godly ancestor rather than a vile example of unredeemed humanity.
And there is another aspect to guarding our name. One of the names followers of Jesus are known by is “Christian.” This is the most precious name we can hold. It is because of this name we can approach our Creator and call him “Father.”
This is a name we should strive to protect and make praiseworthy. We should not however try to earn it, since that’s impossible. It’s a name given simply as a gift, to all who believe Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah promised to be our Redeemer.
Parents are blessed when their children bring honor to their name. So too our Father in heaven. In a world where many hypocrites appeal to his name to defraud and mislead others, it is good to be reminded that our calling as disciples is to live in a manner that conforms to God’s command: “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”