“The real problem is not that we are different, nor that we disagree and have conflict. It's that most of us automatically view conflict as something negative rather than as a tool God can use to help us better understand ourselves and one another.

--Robert Ricciardelli”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What's In A Name?

Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." He is, at best, partially right, and, at worst, totally wrong. Mention Al Anbar Province to a US Marine, and you will get an entirely different reaction than if you mention it to an Iraqi national. Mention Cacun to a vacationer, and you will get an entirely different reation than if you talk about Six Flags. George Carlin once said, "Names have emotional value." He's right. Romanticized nonsense sounds wonderful, and makes our hearts flutter, but it really doesn't much real meaning for us. The truth is our emotions dictate how we feel about things based on our experiences. Experience creates emotional value. Emotional value decides how sweet that rose smells--because of the name.

So, how about the question: what is the emotional value of YOUR name? That will depend on people's experiences with you. If you have been aloof towards others, then your name probably won't have much positive emotional value. And, there are lots of different ways this aloofness can be perceived. Is all you talk about yourself? Do you keep yourself distant, emotionally or physically? Do you spend your time only seeking after your pleasure or desires? You do not have to physically hurt someone to create negative emotional value. Ignorance can do that without any other effort being made. In my case, growing up, I had the bad habit of getting so absorbed reading a book, I was oblivious when friends came over to visit and play.

And that leads to the next question: what is the emotional value of the name of Jesus? That will depend on the experiences you have had with Him, or more often with His people--the church. We Christians are supposed to be a reflection of Him. We're not--or at least not much of one. Some of that has to do with how we were raised. For example, if we were raised by over-acheiving parents, we will probably view our Christian life in terms of our successes, or possessions. The problem is that leaves us focused on performance instead of Christ. And, we become like what we focus on. Worse, we judge others by those perceptions and expectations. I promise you, when we do that, we are not giving off a reflection of Jesus. We are, instead, reflecting the non-Christian world around us. I think I can safely say that does not create any positive emotional value in the name of Jesus.

So, as Christians, what are we focused on--as individuals and congregations? I have to admit I don't like looking at what some areas of my life have become since I became a Christian. These areas haven't improved--and in a few instances, seem worse (or maybe I just see them more clearly). But, without exception, I can say every one of those areas is a place where I am focused on me, the expectations of others, or...well... anything other than Jesus. Maturity as a Christian is not based on how successful you are or are not in business, or finances, or parenting, or relationships. It is based solely on how much like Christ you are letting Him make you.

So, how focused on Him are you? I found a simple way to determine where I am on that journey. I simply ask myself two questions. First, do I do the Biblical things Jesus did because I want to, or because its expected of me? And, second, do I do them because it pleases my heavenly Father, or because it appeases Him enough that He's not mad at me anymore? The first question tells me how much I am looking to people for approval. The second question tells me how much I really love and trust my God.

So, when I say the word Christian, what is the emotional value of that word for you? It may surprise you to find the answer to that question has more to do with you, and your expectations, than it does God. Now, when I say the name Jesus...?