Naming God

January 1st, 2012 Posted in writing

In the Old Testament, God revealed his name to Moses: “I-Am-Who-Am”. It was a sacred, mysterious name and the practice grew up of never pronouncing it aloud. God’s name and the way it was treated suggested the distance between him and us.

But in the New Testament, God reveals himself in Jesus in a human way, and Jesus’ name is far from mysterious. “Joshua” (the original version of ”Jesus”) was a common name, thus suggesting not mystery and distance but closeness and familiarity.

I think many of us default to being formal when relating with Jesus or the Father; we may think that it’s bad manners to be too casual with them since they are so high above us. But isn’t that the point of Jesus’ name being so common, namely, that it’s an attempt to show he wants us to relate to him as we would a partner, dear friend, or companion? And didn’t Jesus himself tell his disciples to call the Father “papa” when they prayed?

If we believe all this is so, then our relationship with Jesus and his Father may become much warmer and more natural than we had imagined proper or possible.

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