What’s in a name?

From the Desk of…

by Donald Hostetler, Major –

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” wrote William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. While that is true, we have come to invest a great deal in the name by which something is labeled. Sports fans have not fully reconciled with corporate names supplanting the beloved monikers by which their home teams’ arenas used to be known: the Boston Celtics basketball team and Boston Bruins hockey team play in a new arena. When it was built, it was known simply as the Fleet Center. In spite of the trademark parquet floor for basketball, Boston fans could not abide the loss of their beloved “gah-den,” a fact the new corporate sponsors have recognized: it is once again “the Garden” although now it is the TD Banknorth Garden.
Names have often been thought to represent something of the character of the person. Names in the Bible are specifically chosen—and sometimes changed—for that very reason. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham to reflect the promise that he would be the father of many nations, and then Sarah named their son Isaac, which means “laughter,” because “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6 NIV). It continues into the New Testament, as both John and Jesus have their names chosen to reflect their divine mission. And when the enemy of the church named Saul came to faith in Jesus, he was a new man with a new name: Paul.
Parents agonize over the name to be given their child; they want the name to “fit” with the surname, the family history, their personal histories and their own expectations of the personality of the child. With knowledge of the child’s sex coming early in the pregnancy, it is not unusual for the name to be chosen months before the child is born. Our next grandchild is due in October; at the baby shower in July, all the guests knew that they were bringing gifts for Ryan because the name had been chosen!
When cadets enter the College for Officer Training they do so as members of a session that has been given a name. Those who have just arrived are not the “class of 2009”—they are the “Witnesses for Christ.” That session name will come to have meaning for them as it characterizes a special dimension of their ministry as Salvation Army officers, maintains a kind of esprit de corps for the session, and unites them with officers of the same session all around the world.
The General chooses session names for all training programs worldwide. The “Witnesses for Christ” follow in a long line of session names that highlight the Army’s mission to “preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Messengers, witnesses, proclaimers and heralds are commonly used in session names because of the primacy of proclamation to our salvation mission.
One of the curious things about session names, though, is that the characterization is not unique to those in the session. All Salvationists should be “God’s Fellow Workers”—not just the second-year cadets. All Salvationists should be “Witnesses for Christ”—not just those who are members of that session. Perhaps it is part of the intention all along that with every mention of the session name, Salvationists will be called to renew their own commitment to witness for Christ.
Let’s join the cadets as “Witnesses for Christ.”

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