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Friday, June 24, 2011

Metta World Peace

Last night sixty young men heard their names called in the 2011 NBA
Draft.  Each of these hopes to make a name for himself doing what he
loves best - playing basketball.  Some may turn out to be superstars;
others may not even make the roster of the team that drafted them.
But they have a shot at making their names household words.

One NBA player has made a name for himself in the wrong way.  Ron
Artest gained widespread attention a few years ago by charging into
the stands and fighting with a fan who was heckling him and his team.
Artest has respectable talent as a basketball player, but many of us
think of his habit of dying his hair strange colors when his name is

Soon there will officially be no basketball player named Ron Artest.
Papers have been filed to legally change his name to Metta World
Peace.  "Metta" is supposedly a word from the Sanskrit language that
means "friendliness" or "benevolence".  Perhaps Artest - er, Peace -
is trying hard to change his image.  A change in names just might be
the trick (though most regard the new name as bizarre).

Names in the Bible are often of great significance.  "Jacob" received
his name at birth, a word that means "supplanter".  That's not a
flattering name, but it pointed to the fact that he would push aside
his older twin brother for the coveted birthright.  Later in life,
though, God gave this man a new name.

"And [God] said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but
Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have
prevailed'" (Genesis 32:28).  Did this new name give Jacob a new view
of himself?  Very likely it did, for it was an assurance from God
Himself that he was a "prince with God" (the literal meaning of the
word "Israel").

Another change of names was prophesied by Isaiah almost 700 years
before the time of Christ: "The Gentiles shall see your righteousness,
and all kings your glory.  You shall be called by a new name, which
the mouth of the Lord will name" (Isaiah 62:2).  For a long time no
one really knew what this prophecy meant.  Who would receive that new
name?  What would it be?

The answer seems clear after reading the first chapters of the book of
Acts.  That book describes the rapid increase of those who followed
Jesus Christ.  Despite intense persecution, multitudes of people made
the decision to live the life Jesus modeled and taught.
Appropriately, these followers were usually identified as "disciples"
or "believers".

In Acts 11:26, a new name appears: "... And the disciples were first
called Christians in Antioch."  That name appears only twice more in
the New Testament (Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16).  But does anyone
doubt that it became the name by which all followers of Christ have
since been known?  In fact, that's what the word "Christian" means:
one who is "of Christ".

Perhaps the name was used by enemies of Christ as a form of derision.
But those who put their trust in God's Son pay no attention to such
taunts.  They are glad to take the name of the Savior as their own.  A
bride is happy to wear the name of her husband; Christians, as members
of Christ's church, are His bride (Ephesians 5:22-32).  We are thus
honored to be given this new name!

Timothy D. Hall

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