Justin Tucker, LHBC Worship Pastor
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, God You reign
Yours is the kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the name above all names
What’s in a name? That was a big question that we’ve had to answer three times. Once for each of our girls: Ruby Jo, Ellie, and Maggie. Michele said she needed to hold them and look at them. (I was pretty sure that they were going to be named Milton or Clarence since all new born babies look like shriveled up old men at first.) That decision got easier each time we had to make it but I still remember looking at the blanks on the page for an entire day after Ruby Jo was born and Michele and I looking at each other still with no idea what we were going to name her. We wanted older names but we also wanted family names. We ended up naming her after our maternal grandmothers…”Ruby” for Michele’s grandmother and “Jo” for my grandmother. We had a very similar process with Ellie except this time we used the white board in the delivery room to write up ideas both before and after her arrival. We named her after our Paternal grandmothers…”Elizabeth” for my grandmother and “Christine” for Michele’s grandmother. These names weren’t simply chosen because they were both older and family names though. These names were chosen because of the women they were named after. These women are women that we hope and pray that they will grow up to embody. They were women of great strength, of great devotion to their families, but most importantly they were women who loved Jesus. They were women of faith and prayer and we wanted to give our little girls names to live up to. I hope they bring honor to their great-grandmother’s names. Then there’s Maggie…well, we weren’t nearly as spiritual…I’m a Rod Stewart fan and I look forward to yelling up the stairs one day, “Wake up, Maggie. I think I’ve got something to say to you.”
In our passage today we see the first time that followers of Christ are called “Christians.” The believers in Antioch were far different from the culture they lived in. Because they lived in an environment without a connection to Judaism like the church in Jerusalem had the Christ-followers in Antioch stuck out like a sore thumb. Antioch was a Roman city, influenced by the Roman and Greek way of life, the third largest city in the empire. So, as people watched those believers do their thing, a new title began to form. They were bold in their faith, both Jews and Gentiles alike were preaching the Good News of Jesus to anyone that would listen. Not only were they bold in their talk, they were bold in their walk. They lived a lifestyle that was the complete opposite of the culture they lived in. They integrated themselves into the culture they lived in and lived out a counter-cultural life which was a huge reason that they were called Christians. They treated women with honor and equality when the Greek and Roman culture they lived in treated women as property. They valued the sanctity of marriage rather than make a mockery of it. The love that they showed one another stood out most of all. They were known by their love. As they lived with one another, the rest of the community took note of the way they treated each other, but also those outside their group. They didn’t live like the world around them, but they loved the world around them.
So, what’s in a name? A legacy is in a name. An expectation is in a name. Just as I hope our girls live lives that are worthy of the names they have been given, I believe that God wants us to live our lives in a manner that is worthy of the name that we have been given…Christians. As I think about the ways that the church in Antioch lived out their lives, I’m challenged – they represent the church that I love and want to be a part of. I believe that if we can be bold in sharing our faith, If we can live in the world without being of the world, and that we can love people the way that Jesus loved people – we can make a huge impact for the Kingdom!
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Heavenly Father, help me to live up to the name that you have given me. Help me to live a bold, faith-filled, love-giving life. Make me aware of the opportunities to boldly share with others the Good News of Jesus. Help me to see people through Your eyes and to love people with Your heart. In Jesus’ name, amen.
MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK:
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.