It makes me cringe when I hear the name of Jesus Christ used as a curse word. In something I read by NT Wright he pointed out that this might be seen as a backhanded compliment of sorts – as it points to the huge cultural impact Christ has had on this world. While we may not curse using the name of our Lord, do we as believers give the name of Jesus the honor it deserves? Since this post will definitely be some “thinking out loud” on my part – your thoughts will be very welcome.
Several years ago I read an antique (late 19th century) book by Sir Robert Anderson entitled “The Honor of His Name.” I recently got the book back out and was reviewing it. He expresses concern for the lack of honor given to the Lord Jesus (even by Christians) in how they refer to Him, and then he expositionally looks through the New Testament Scriptures for guidance.
He gives a few examples of his concern. In a book warehouse, one of the employees was high on a ladder, and another employee yelled up “Throw me down a Blood of Jesus” (title of a book). He was horrified to see the name of Jesus used so lightly and then decided that this was not an appropriate name for a book. (You’ll notice the name of his book is the carefully chosen The Honor of His Name, and does not even have the name of Jesus in the title.) Or he’d recently seen an advertisement for a series of lectures on Jesus, and the ad stated they would look at what Saint Mark and Saint Peter had to say about Jesus. Note it is SAINT Mark and Peter, but just plain old Jesus. If you are giving Mark and Peter the respectful title of saint, shouldn’t Jesus also be referred to as Lord or Christ?
And that is the core argument of his book – that referring to Jesus as plain Jesus is not giving Him the honor due His Name. He very carefully makes a Scriptural defense for his view, and I was fascinated by some of the things he pointed out.
The simple name Jesus is primarily used in the narrative accounts of the Gospels. In the New Testament Epistles, with a few exceptions, the plain name Jesus is not used and rather it is Lord Jesus, Christ Jesus, etc. He notes that even in the Gospels, although the simple name Jesus is used narratively, when the disciples are talking to or about Jesus, they usually refer to Him with a title of reverence. I thought it was interesting that the Gospels record at the Last Supper “Jesus took bread”; but in 1 Corinthians 11 when Paul looks back to this he states “the Lord Jesus took bread.” Take note of Paul’s opening of his letter to the Corinthians – in only 10 verses, Christ is repeatedly referred to with high honor – Christ Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ our Lord.
That brief paragraph does not due justice to what he presents in the book. But I think he has valid observations that should give us pause. What do you think? Is this much ado about nothing?
I tend to agree with the author. While it may be okay to simply say Jesus at times depending on the circumstance, it seems we have things reversed from the Bible. Outside of the narrative Gospel accounts, Jesus is overwhelmingly referred to with titles of reverence or honor – yet we more typically today just say plain Jesus. (With chagrin, I note the title of my blog series is “It’s about Jesus.”)
I can’t help but wonder if this has anything to do with what I consider an evangelical weakness. Modern evangelicalism has done a great job emphasizing the immanent aspect of God – it is true that God came near and we can have a relationship with Him. Yet we seem to have neglected God’s transcendence. We’ve lost a reverence or healthy fear of God. [See this post: Problems with saying you have a “relationship with God”…maybe we need new terminology? or the relationship with God category section.]
– Could this be a reason why we typically call him Jesus without a title of reverence along with it? Balance is needed for the biblical tension between God’s immanence and transcendence. We can think of and relate to Jesus as a friend, but unlike our earthly friends, Jesus is also Lord, Christ, and the almighty Creator and Ruler of the universe. Perhaps a little more honor is due His Name?