I SAW IN THE newspaper several months ago that a gentleman in South Africa had his name changed. The interesting part was that he switched from Gnanasamunthamurthi Naicker to Gnanasamunthamurthi Moodley. The filler went on to say that no reason was given for the change. It reminded me a little of the fellow named Joe Stink who switched to Jim Stink because he got tired of people saying, “Hey, Joe, what do you know!”
Gnanasamunthamurthi had a fine reason for changing his name, I am sure. Apparently the one he had to begin with indicated something or related him to someone that he wasn’t proud of. After all, that’s what names are for. They describe. They tell who or what. They indicate kinship, or quality, or purpose. They identify.
Why is it, then, do you suppose, that people are so careless about names when it comes to spiritual affairs? Millions professing to be Christians are apparently not satisfied to be called that. They take extra names. Some are based on a practice (Baptist, Dunkard, Quaker). Others come from a man’s name (Lutheran, Calvinist, Wesleyan or Campbellite). Maybe these names designate church government (Congregational, Presbyterian, Independent or Episcopalian). Sometimes they grow out of a belief or doctrine (Evangelical, Fundamental, Methodist, Adventist, or Sabbatarian — and we had as well include Progressive and Anti, Liberal and Conservative, etc. If a person carries a partisan flag for these causes he is in the same boat with all the rest along this line.).
Christians in New Testament times-under the guidance of the apostles and prophets-also baptized, but they were just CHRISTIANS. They were congregational in government and were ruled by local presbyters (elders) who were also called episcopoi (overseers). But they were still just CHRISTIANS. They were “pro” some things and “anti” some things. But they were still just CHRISTIANS, or saints, or disciples, or believers, or brethren. And these were names common to them all, not labels to divide them from one another.
Ile one time we find them taking any party labels (in that case they had begun to take men’s names), the Apostle Paul reprimanded them firmly, and reminded them that they were all baptized into the name of Christ, who was crucified for them all. He added that Christ was not divided, and. that they should not be either (I Corinthians 1:9-18).
‘Me great reformers of early Protestantism all begged their followers not to take their names. They urged them to be Christians-nothing more and nothing less. If a man is a follower of the Lord he can be described best in that term. Scripture says the man who suffers as a Christian is to glorify God on that behalf (I Peter 4:16). The individual who suffers as something else has to find encouragement elsewhere. One who takes all the Bible and nothing else will be a Christian-and nothing else.
It is tragic that most of those who say they are Christians have added the “kind” of Christian they want to be. Christ died for us all. All true Christians were
baptized in His name. Let us be just Christians. Unless, of course, we ARE something else. In which case the honest thing to do is change our name. Like good old Gnanasamunthamurthi. I can’t help wondering, though … is Moodley that much better than Naicker?