Ask Pastor Dave: How Should I Respond When Parents Name Their Kid “Jesus” or “Messiah”?

q-aThis is an interesting question. It arises out of cultural and a religious milieu that desires to honor Christ and yet also be kind to our neighbors. There is, behind this question, an understandable concern that using names like “Jesus” or “Messiah,” or some other similar moniker, might be sacrilegious. So, how then should those who seek to be honoring to Christ respond in these scenarios? Should we use the names? Should we avoid using the name? Should we express concern over it? What does it look like in this rather unique scenario to love God and love my neighbor? This is, honestly, a question I had never considered before, so I will do my best here to think carefully and Biblically about it. My initial response is that the usage of such names doesn’t mean anything and is therefore perfectly acceptable to use.

I doubt that the parents who have chosen to name their child “Jesus” or “Messiah” have chosen to do so out of a conviction that their son or daughter is in fact the savior of the world, the divinely anointed chosen servant of God, etc. In fact in many cases the decision to name a child “Jesus” or “Messiah,” or the like, comes either from ignorance or from a genuine desire to honor Christ. That is to say, some people just like the sound of a name and chose it arbitrarily, while others think they are honor Christ by naming their son “Jesus.” You can appreciate the logic. After all, we name our kids after grandparents, parents, and friends, why not our King. So the intent is not sacrilegious and we can honor the desire of a person’s heart.

We should also recognize that “Jesus” was a normal name. In fact in the New Testament we have record of another man named “Jesus” (Matt. 27:16-17, though the full name “Jesus Barabbas” is found on in some ancient manuscripts and is therefore debated). The name is a Latin form of the Greek rendition of the Hebrew “Yeshua”. Sometimes it is transliterated “Joshua.” So our pronunciation is not even the original pronunciation of the name found in the New Testament. We shouldn’t, therefore, put more stock in the sound “Jesus” than there actually is. It’s a name. The person it represents is the significant part to highlight. There have been plenty of other Joshuas and Jesuses and even Jesúses throughout history, but there is, obviously, only one “Jesus.” I have no problem, then, calling someone “Jesus” if that’s there given name, so long as I know in my own mind that there’s a huge difference. Though, I can appreciate how it would feel kind of weird.

The name “Messiah” is perhaps a little more tricky. The term “Messiah” means “anointed one” or “Christ.” It obviously has a pretty specific target in mind. I can respect the discomfort people might have in using this label as a name for someone else. I don’t think, however, that we have a reason to feel guilty about using the name. After all it’s not the mere recitation of the name “Jesus” or “Messiah” which has any real power, meaning, or honor to it. It’s the application of that name to the specific person of the Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. To say the name Jesus is not to do really anything, unless we are saying it about the one and only savior of sinners and ruler of the universe. Fundamentally, then, I think this is a case where honoring Christ and being gracious to my neighbor means I can be content to call a child by its given name of “Jesus” or “Messiah.” Not denying, however, that it surely feels weird to do so.

The heart behind this question is really good and so I want to add one qualifying statement at the conclusion. I would never want to compel someone to go against their conscience. I have made my case for why the names don’t really mean anything apart from the person of the Christ, and why it would be perfectly fine to use them in reference to another person. Yet, if someone feels that it would be deeply offensive to God, that it would be sinful to apply the name to anyone but the Son of God then they should not do it! You must come to terms with this recommendation in your own heart. If nothing else many of us can agree that it might feel strange to call someone else “Jesus” or “Messiah,” and may God bless the person who didn’t choose that name for themselves but are nonetheless stuck with it.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    ‘a Latin form of the Greek rendition of the Hebrew “Yeshua”’…it’d be interesting to know why/for how long this has been the case, why’d the Hebrew and Greek fall out of favor/use

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: