Naming Rights

Throughout the course of our six children being born, there were many entertaining discussions between my wife and me concerning names. I have friends who always wanted the sex of the baby to be a surprise, but I was not those people. One of the main reasons had to do with this issue of naming the child. At least we could cut the name pool in half by focusing on boy names or girl names. It was hard enough without having to come up with each contingency. Then you had that middle name to deal with as well. Names had to be significant to us. Names had to sound right to us.

Naming rights is one of the things that make us creatures made in the image of God. Adam was called to name the animals in Genesis 2. But do you think that his naming duties was left simply to his imagination and preference? To be given the right to name something indicates not only responsibility over it and to it, but it also indicates a level of wisdom and maturity to name it correctly.

To name something is to bring definition and clarity to its reality. As Christians we are given naming rights over all the earth. We are to call things by name in a way that defines it truthfully and clarifies our responsibility toward it. For example, when I call to my son, Nathan, by name I am to recognize two things. First, that it’s Nathan I am addressing. The Nathan God created and continues to recreate him to be. It means I take into account his personality, his mind, his heart, his circumstances, his strengths and weaknesses, how he communicates. He is not an unknown boy. He is known and loved and I am to interact with him as such. Second, that I am Nathan’s father. I have a unique love and responsibility to Nathan that I do not have with other boys, even if I happen to know their names. Nathan has been given to me by God, for the purposes of God, and the naming of him is to remind me of that.

Now, why all this talk about names? Well, you might be surprised with where I want to go with this. Let me give a brief context. It started with a conversation with my wife about the number of men we know (and the number continues to grow) who are giving themselves over to pornography and drugs. These are men who are husbands to good wives and fathers to little children. These are men who attend church and profess the name of Christ. These are men who have a knowledge of the Scriptures. What is going wrong? Why is this becoming epidemic among the young men in our churches?

The truest answer is that I have no idea. I cannot begin to understand how someone could justify such things over an extended period of time. But rebellion against God is often a tangled web. It’s hard to see its beginning or even its logical progression, but when that insect is having the life sucked out of it, there’s no denying that the web is deceptive and deadly.

Some of it may have to do with this idea of naming rights. Let me explain. We are several generations into a common tradition of the church taking up naming rights apart from wisdom and maturity. If the church calls it worship, then it must be worship. If the church calls it community, then it must be community. If the church calls it good, then it must be good. If the church calls it evil then it must be evil. But all of this has been done so often without much wisdom, without a deep understanding and submission to what God says about those things.

So now we have men (and women) who confidently go out into the world naming things according to their own preferences and desires. A man can say he is loving his wife faithfully while still indulging in sexual fantasies with his eyes. He does so by naming it as a natural desire, a way to alleviate stress, a means of exciting and enhancing his love for his wife, a simple pleasure that doesn’t hurt anybody else, an addiction that couldn’t be helped. He may even call it something artistic-a way to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation or crafting a good story. Don’t doubt me!

But that is not how God would have him name them. And by naming those things apart from God’s authority, he is claiming absolute sovereignty.  He calls his own desires, “Mine!” He calls his own body, “Mine!” He calls the woman on the screen, “Mine!” He does not humbly seek the good of those things that have been given to him by God. No, he takes what he wants, puts the appropriate label on it to give it respectability, and then settles in as the life is slowly sucked out of him by sin.

Sin doesn’t really care what you call it. There are people who have called tigers pets until the tigers turned around and called them lunch. Only God names things into being. We are called to submit to His authority, seek His wisdom, and name everything according to its kind. By so doing, we will be able to better understand the true reality of the thing and our proper response to it. Should we kill it or should we feed it? I am to feed and nourish my wife. I am to kill the lusts of my flesh. Should we submit to it or bring it under submission?I am to submit to my wife by bringing my body under submission to serve her. I am not to serve my body by enslaving others.

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