The Social Security office held long lines and faces devoid of smiles, making my exuberant countenance stand out even more. This was a happy occasion for me — the day my name was legally changed.
It took getting married to make me realize how much hassle it is to get a new name. The list of people to notify goes on and on: the post office, the bank, the Social Security office, the DMV and more.
All the layers of effort must mean one thing: What I am trying to do is a big deal.
Take a look at history. Throughout Scripture, God made a big deal of names. His job assignment to Adam, the first man, was to name animals in the Garden. And God went to great lengths to give new names to people whose lives He changed, those He made promises to.
Gen. 17:5 — God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. He went from a name that didn’t really have a meaning to, “the Father of many nations.”
Gen. 17:6 — Sarai, or “she that strives” (a contentious person), had her name changed to Sarah which means “princess” (the kings of all people should be from her).
A name tells you who you are and establishes your uniqueness from others. A last name explains which family you belong to and provides origin and security. And a first name’s meaning often reflects the character qualities a parent wants in his or her child.
Changing my last name legally isn’t a big deal because it takes a lot of work, but because it signifies an identity change, going from “daughter” to “wife.” I have a new declaration of belonging.
Name Changes Are Spiritual
In the same way, God gives us new names when we become His. It’s not merely an act of the past; He offers a name change to us today as members of His family. We are no longer named condemned but instead named Christian, to proclaim to the world that we are not our own — our lives are tied to His.
Our name change reveals an eternal part of our identity — our origin and our future. It reveals the One who’s promised to claim us and care for us forever.
Names Are Given, Not Earned
That is a huge deal because God is perfectly holy, and He literally “upholds the universe by the word of his power,” according to Hebrews 1. Yet, He chooses to be associated with us, to make us — though formerly filthy rags (according to Isaiah) — name-bearers for Him.
Hebrews 2 declares that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers because of our sanctification, and even made himself like us, that “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery…therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:14-17)
Jesus paid a high price to call me a sister, to give me a spiritual name change — not because I was worthy, but because He is merciful. He humbled himself, becoming flesh and spilling his blood so that I might share His name and inheritance. As a Christian, my life will forever be a declaration of my identity and the undeserved promise of eternity with Him, just as my married name is a declaration of the promise of forever with my husband.
The astronomical implications for Christians call us to do two things:
1. Live worthy of your name.
In my wallet, I carry a new driver’s license with my married name. I am identifying as part of my husband’s family, and what I do is now tied to that name.
Consider how your family of origin was known. Was your dad an elder in the church? Was your mom an alcoholic? Was your sister valedictorian? How did those around you perceive you as a result? A family name is known by the fruits of its members, just as Christians are called to reflect the Lord with our actions.
It can be tempting for Christ-followers to live as though we never had a name change, to drink the muddy waters of sin rather than from the well of living water. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this living by “cheap grace,” which he described as “grace without price: grace without cost! The essence of grace we suppose is that the account has been paid, everything can be had for nothing…it means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner.”
We must not settle for cheap grace, but instead live worthy of the costly grace we received by the death of God himself. As Paul wrote to the Romans, we were not saved so that we could continue living in sin, but so we might be freed from it.
2. Be amazed.
The fact that you or I could share the name of God’s own family is a miracle. But the message can become routine and lose its luster if we are not careful.
Take some time — perhaps sitting at the Social Security office or the DMV, as I was — and remember the glory of the gospel. You are no longer defined by your past names: liar, thief, addict, unwanted, hypocrite. You are now called “beloved.”
Whether you are single or married, whether you are still living in your given name or have received a new one, Christ has gone to great lengths to woo you, pursue you, and make you his family. He wants you! And that is truly a miracle.
Ashley Durand graduated in 2013 from Grace College and Theological Seminary with a degree in journalism. Recently married, she enjoys hiking adventures with her husband, Jon, and playing board games with friends.