As I sat in my classroom on a regular July day, not so different from any other day in July, I thought to myself how glad I was we didn’t have year round school. For years the debate had raged, there was widespread, vocal opposition to year round school. The idea was not popular with the public, with parents, with students, with summer camp owners or with pool operators etc. No one, it seemed, wanted to go to school year round. Thank goodness that idea was defeated.
So what am I doing in school in July? (and it’s not summer school) Well, my school system, like those in the surrounding areas, is on a balanced calendar. No one wanted year round school but who wouldn’t want their calendar to be balanced? It sounds so reasonable, so rational, so right. I mean, after all, who would want their calendar to be unbalanced? This implies by definition that something is amiss.
And yet, something is rotten in Denmark, if you know what I mean. This balanced calendar sure smells a lot like year round school to me. Yes, it looks like, feels like, acts like, just like year round school. I’m with Shakespeare on this one, a rose by any other name does smell just as sweet or just as rotten. Nothing has changed but the name. But oh what a difference a name can make!
Yes, Shakespeare, I disagree with you on this one. The rose may still smell as sweet or Denmark just as rotten, but by another name do we still recognize what was so clear to us before the name change? I think not. That’s why rebranding is working so well these days. Something not selling, whether a product or an idea, just rename it, rebrand it, put it out there under a new name. Then stand back and watch people accept what they previously rejected or vice versa.
We used to shop for “used cars”. Now we purchase “preferred previously owned vehicles”. My mom used to deal with our sibling wars by having the offender or the offenders to sit alone on a chair removed from the others to “think about what we had done” and “until we could play nice/get along again” don’t get up. Today we call this a “time out” and it is considered an innovative, effective discipline technique preferred by parents and educators alike. Who knew my mom was so forward thinking, so cutting edge, so ahead of her time? She was practicing this before it had a name. All that was missing was that she couldn’t say to us, “if you don’t stop that you’ll get a time out”.
A friend of mine was similarly savvy. She knew the power of rebranding. She needed a babysitter for the summers for her two young boys because her job, unlike their school at the time, was year round. But her sons both felt they were much too old for a babysitter and would be embarrassed to have one. My friend solved the problem by hiring her boys a “vacation assistant” each summer to transport them to their various activities and to assist them with their summer plans and schedule. They loved it. The rose just needed another name.
What’s in a name? Apparently quite a bit. Perception, power, presentation all influenced by what we name, label or call a particular person or an idea or an action or an event. A minor military action is one thing but if we call that same event “war”, the ramifications are suddenly much bigger, more far reaching than before. Something labeled “a random act of violence” barely gets our attention, let alone a reaction. Call that same event “a terrorist attack” and now it is not only noteworthy, it elicits an emotional response such as fear or anger and demands a collective response from the community as well. It does matter what we call the rose.
Whether we call a cop a “law enforcement officer” or a “pig” makes all the difference in how we perceive them and therefore in how we treat them. Slave owners used rebranding in an attempt to avoid facing the truth of their egregious lifestyle. It would be wrong for people to own and oppress other people. Solution; the slaves were not “people” but “property”, therefore the slave owners could delude themselves that they were not participating in an ongoing abomination of human rights, taking place in their very own households. But a rose by any other name still smells the same, or in this case still stinks the same.
What’s in a name? Does it make a difference whether we call it a flower or a weed? Do we experience God’s merciful intervention in our lives and our circumstances and yet choose to call it fate or coincidence? ( we know that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17) And yet we persist in crediting fate or even ourselves and our own efforts, rather than give to God the honor and the glory that is due Him. We would rather call God’s sovereignty by a different name and so subvert the truth. But He is still sovereign. Even if we refuse to acknowledge God, Psalm 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” and Luke 19:40 tells us that if we keep quiet, the stones will cry out. A rose by any other name . . .
We take the lives of unborn children and call it “pro choice”. a rose by any other name . . .
We use our words as weapons to tear down and destroy individuals, ideals and ideas and call it free speech. a rose by any other name . . .
we produce pornography and call it art. a rose by any other name . . .
we don’t call our selfish, or self-destructive, or immoral, or illegal, or hurtful behaviors sin. but a rose by any other name . . . is still a rose, whether we call it what it is or not.
What’s in a name and why are names important? Maybe because names are important to our Creator. Consider that “He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26) God knows the names of the stars He created and He knows the names of the people He’s created as well.
God is in the renaming/rebranding business but His purposes in doing so are good. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jer. 29:11) When God called Abram, He changed his name to Abraham. God changed Sarai to Sarah and He changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Later He changed Simon to Peter and Saul became Paul after his blinding conversion experience.
Why the name changes? Maybe because of this truth, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Cor. 5:17) God is in the business of personal transformation. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:25-26) God changed these peoples’ names along with changing their hearts and their lives. We too are promised new names. “To him who overcomes, . . . I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)
What’s in a name? Plenty. Words have power and therefore names have power. (see post “walking wounded”) Our God is the living Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1: 1,14)
What’s in a name? The Jews believed God’s name was too sacred to be spoken aloud. Because of this, Moses inquired of God what name he should give the Israelites when they would question him about who had sent him. We see God’s answer in Exodus 3:14-15, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, The Lord , the God of your fathers– the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”
What’s in a name? The power and the presence and the person of Jesus reside in His name. Jesus has many, many names but I like what Revelation 19:12-16 tells us about some of them. ” . . . on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. . . . On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. ”
Isaiah 9:6 tells us Jesus will be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” But the bottom line is found in Philippians 2:9-11 which tells us, “God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
What’s in a name? In Jesus’ name is His resurrection power that overcame death. In His name are the forgiveness, healing, hope, freedom and eternal life we all seek but few find. Jesus truly is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. So here I will close.
sincerely, Grace Day