When I was engaged I struggled with the “name changing” decision. Do I keep my last name? Do I completely get rid of it? Do I hyphenate it? I have had my last name for 20-something years. That should count for something, right? How could I completely get rid of it? I earned that name. More people knew me as Victoria Ratliff than would ever know me as Victoria Harris. That was my thought process. It was about me.
Now, almost seven years into our marriage, I want to change my name on our checks to read, “Mrs. Billy “Tate” Harris.” But why now? Because I now understand what it means to take on someone else’s name. It means that you belong to that person, fully and completely.
When Tate and I got married it was new and exciting. I wanted more than anything to submit to him in every way, but it didn’t happen right off the bat. And, while it still doesn’t happen as much as I would like, my willingness to submit to him in everything, including completely taking on his name and everything that comes with it, gets easier everyday.
Your new name:
When we submit to Christ, God becomes our Father. By doing so, we belong to Him, which includes taking on His name and everything that entails as part of our new identity. During this transition our image changes. Consider what Paul told the church in Corinth about the resurrection: “The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47-48). In the prior verse he reminds them that first comes the natural (aka, Adam, a man of flesh), then comes the spiritual (aka, Jesus and the Holy Spirit). When we make the decision to be adopted by God as his son or daughter things change. We no longer desire to act on the flesh. Rather, it should be the desire of our hearts to be aligned with God’s heart, that he put on display through His Son, Jesus.
This was the problem with the church in Corinth. They claimed to follow Christ, yet plunged themselves into immoral sexual acts (1 Cor. 6:12-20), jealousy (1 Cor. 3:3), quarreling and lawsuits (1 Cor. 6:1-10), boasting (1 Cor. 5:6; 8:1-2; 1:25-31), selfishness and lack of self-control (1 Cor. 10:33-34; 7:5), and worldly company (1 Cor. 15:33-34). Rather than staying as babies nursing their mothers, Paul boldly encourages them to grow into their new identity so they too can eat solid food. He gently and humbly tells them that they are called into fellowship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ, their Lord (1:9) and that they have now have the mind of Christ (2:16).
A professor of apologetics at Biola University, Clay Jones (he has a new book coming out next week titled Why God Allows Evil: An Eternal Perspective Theodicy, click here to read an interview with him and McDowell on this new release), calls a group of people who claim to be Christians, but whose life lacks evidence to support it as Chinos: Christians in Name Only. While he was joking (but still a bit serious), it is true! How many of us have been “Christians” for 5-, 10-, or 30 or more years, but still acts as Chinos? It would be better for the church if those people did not claim the name of Christ at all.
So, where did the name Christian, come from? Acts 11:26 says, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” In the first century people were identified as a follower of a specific leader by adding “-ian” to the end of the name. For example, in Mark 3:6 we see the name “Herodians,” which refers to the followers of Herod. Likewise, the first followers of Christ were called Christians.
What did it mean to be a Christian? Looking at the the rest of the New Testament what it meant was simple: you lived what the evidence told you. From the perspective of Luke, who chose to “carefully investigate” the eyewitness accounts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, he opens Acts by saying,
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
This is only the first of nearly 30 mentioning of the resurrection in the book of Acts. Do you think the apostles would have listened to these commands had it not been true? Would Luke have identified the evidence as “eye witness” accounts of the risen Lord had there been a possibility of any part of the story being fabricated? Highly doubtful. Acts and the books that follow are full of bold men and women who stood up for Jesus and suffered in His sufferings, even to the point of death, without recanting their testimony of what they were firsthand witnesses of. These first Christians were willing to suffer and die to be called a follower of Christ.
Suffering for the name:
This makes me think about our newly adopted son, Asa. When he said “Yes” to being our son, it meant that he now must embrace all of us. Not just the good. He also gets the bad. The same goes for us. By saying “Yes” to him being our son, that didn’t mean that we got him from that point forward. No. It meant that we got all of him, including the first ten years of his life that we missed. The abandonment, attachment difficulties, loneliness, fear, and rejection as well as the joy, friendships, and stories of people that mothered and fathered him until he was in our arms. All of him is now ours, the good and the bad.
Just after the martyrdom of Stephen and the persecution of the church in Jerusalem, God told a man named Ananias to to go to Paul. When Ananias bucked at this command due to Paul’s history of killing the Christians, God says, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Being a part of an earthly family means you rejoice during the graduations, birthdays, weddings, and milestones, but it doesn’t stop there. It also means that you suffer with one another. Consider the death of a family member or a sibling struggling to make the right decisions.
The same happens when you are adopted into God’s family. Being a son or daughter of God may mean temporary suffering by natural or moral evil, but you can be sure that it is one thing: temporary. Thankfully, just like Jesus’ Father walked Him through His suffering, He will always walk us through ours. We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who are mourning.
The Spirit testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ - seeking that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. -Romans 8:16-17
They didn’t just accept suffering, they embraced it. They understood that Jesus suffered by taking up His cross for us, and that we should also be ready to literally carry our cross just like Jesus! This suffering would be part of our purification “so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Being identified as a Christian meant to be a 100% sold out Christ-follower, living a bold life for him, relying on His power to proclaim His name, and being willing to die an excruciating death like Him for His sake. Those first called Christians were true God-glorifiers. Embracing the family name meant fully participating. Are we fully participating? Or do we call ourselves part of the team in hopes of getting a participation trophy when the season is over?
*Reading the entire book of 1 Corinthians in one sitting will help you get the big picture of who God expects you to be as His daughter.*
Victoria Harris holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Victoria is a lover of Jesus, a wife, biological mom of a preschooler and adoptive mom of a tween. She is a former Miss Florida Teen USA and Mrs. Florida United States. Follow her on twitter @VictoriaDHarris, Facebook at www.facebook.com/vdharris or instagram @VictoriaHarrisInsta.
Victoria is a wife, mom, ambassador of Jesus, and a lover of all things that involve learning.