Ron Artest is a forward on the Lakers basketball team. And he is good at his job. In 2004 he won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. And, year before last, he was an integral part of that team winning the NBA championship. But you won’t hear his team mates hollering “Ron, pass me the ball” any more. Artest has legally changed his name to “Metta World Peace.”
Ron or Metta (which means friendship, love and kindness) is an interesting guy. He brought attention to mental health issues in professional athletes by thanking his therapist when he won a humanitarian award. He auctioned off his championship ring and donated the proceeds to various mental health charities. And now he has legally changed his name to bring attention to the need for harmony and peace in the world.
As I watched this saga play out in the sports world this summer, I could not help but think of how a name means something in the Bible. When God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Gen. 32), He was signifying that the conniver would have a change of character and now should be known as the “one who perseveres.”
In the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus becomes Paul in Acts 13. We don’t know for sure if God actually changed Paul’s name. Perhaps the Romanization of his name was a way to embrace his new focus. He was to become the apostle to the Gentiles.
Not only do names have great significance in the scriptures, when they are doubled, God is getting someone’s attention. When God calls to Moses from within the burning bush (Ex. 3), He calls out “Moses, Moses!” When Jesus is exasperated with Martha’s lack of true spiritual focus, He calls out “Martha, Martha” (Luke 10). To get Saul’s attention on the road to Damascus, the Lord calls out, “Saul, Saul” (Acts 9).
I don’t think I want to hear “Sherry, Sherry” from almighty God.
But this week, I think we all should be thinking about our names and longing for a new one. In Revelation 2:17, in the midst of a discussion about the church at Pergamum, God says, “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”
I am not exactly sure what that new name will entail. But I know it was purchased by His spilled blood on the cross at Calvary. It is part of our “branding” as children of God. When we place our faith and trust in Him as savior, we are sealed into an eternal relationship and our name reflects that relationship.
And I promise you, it will be a lot better than Metta World Peace.
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel