What’s in a Name?

“Jesus values neighbors, and thus I’ve learned the importance of loving mine.”

No longer will you be called Abram[a]; your name will be Abraham… Genesis 17:5b

The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel. Genesis 32:28

Names are very important to God. He changed the names of certain people in the Bible to describe such things as destiny and character. He changed Abram’s name meaning “high father” to Abraham meaning “father of a multitude.” He changed Jacob’s name meaning “trickster” or “usurper” to Israel, which means “he fights or persists with God.” When Jesus looked at Simon, He said: “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:42) “Cephas” is a common noun meaning “stone,” or “rock. Names are also very important to your neighbors. One of the first things you will want to learn is your neighbors’ names. When you ask for a neighbor’s name, you are communicating that they have significance. When you remember their name and call them by name you are on the doorstep of establishing a new relationship. Bruce beautifully portrays this very thing.

Bruce and Karen Zachary’s Neighborhood (A Condo)

Juliet:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet and fall in love in Shakespeare’s lyrical tale of “star-crossed” lovers. They are doomed from the start as members of two warring families. Here, Juliet tells Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and that she loves the person who is called “Montague”, not the Montague name and not the Montague family.

Yet, names are significant. They convey meaning and imply relationship. Consider Jesus… His name tells us His mission that Jehovah is Salvation. He is called Immanuel meaning God with us. He is: The Bread of Life, The Light of The World, The Door, the Good Shepherd, The Resurrection and Life, The Way the Truth and the Life, and the True Vine.

Consider: Phyllis, Don and Tena, Jim and Marylee, Dave and Donna, Art and Rose, Jeff and Sheri, Jim and Betty, Ted and Diana. Names that I would have been hard-pressed to recall but a few years ago, and today flow to my memory with fragrance more delightful than the most splendid of flowers. They are names of my neighbors, people who live in close proximity to me, and people who are my friends. People who I’m blessed to say that I love.

Phyllis lives next door to Karen and I. We just celebrated her 92nd birthday, along with our Neighborhood Group (small group Bible study). She lives independently, has good health, and her mind remains remarkably sharp. Phyllis loves Jesus, and says profound things that inspire the rest of the group. Last night, she reminded us that we might think that she is lonely, but she isn’t because she knows that Jesus is with her. Karen has recently been sick, and Phyllis encouraged us that if we need anything just to ask her. Precious words from a woman we love and who loves us, and we’ve been blessed to declare that truth together frequently.

Don and Tena, live on the other side of us. Don is a retired dentist, and Tena has retired from interior design. They both love Jesus, and are very active in their service at a local church in our community. Don had a recent heart incident and was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night. The next day, I went to the hospital. As a pastor, hospital visits are part of the rhythm of my calling, however, this was the first time that I was motivated to do so for a neighbor as opposed to a congregant. I love that Don and Tena and Karen and I pray together, I love Don and Tena, and know that I’m loved by them.

Jim and Marylee are a delight. They are fun and great to converse with and share a neighborhood with. They are hospitable, thoughtful, and caring. The kind of neighbors you’d ask to care for your pets while you’re out of town, and they would gladly do so. They worship at the nearby Catholic parish church, and although we have significant doctrinal differences, I truly believe that they love Jesus. And we genuinely love and care for one another.

Dave and Donna live kitty corner to us. Dave is the head of our homeowner’s association [HOA]. He had a recent back surgery with some complications. He’s a stoic guy, and has declined any offers of help. We let Donna know that if she needs any help to let us know. Dave serves our HOA faithfully and I’m grateful for him. We’ve had lunch together and I got to hear some of his story. Dave told me recently. “Bruce you’re a really good neighbor.” They were some of the most encouraging words that I’ve heard.

Art and Rose live directly across from us. They are very involved in a local church where they provide lay counseling assistance. Karen says that Rose has the complexion of a nineteen-year old. She is a property manager and they have several properties. Art’s first wife passed from consequences of dementia. Art has the wonderful gift of an irreverent humor (that is not inappropriate), and great compassion. A rare blend. I love them.

Ted and Diana are new to our neighborhood. They have an adult daughter with dystonia, and that requires an abundance of their energy and care. I admire their love and attention for her. I ask if there is anything Karen and I, or our other neighbors, can do to support them. I confess, I’m so inadequate to offer any help with their daughter’s condition, but if bringing a meal or going to the store could help, I’d be glad to. I’m praying for their salvation, strength, and His grace to be upon them. Ted grew up in a Jewish home, as did I, and if nothing else he finds it amusing that his neighbor is a pastor with a mezuzah on the door.

Jeff and Sher moved in less than a year ago and live across from us. Jeff is a pilot and Sheri is an author. They both are really sharp, which I admire. I rarely see them outside because they probably are pretty busy with life. I hope to get to know them better this year. It was fun having them in our place for a recent HOA meeting and getting to talk with them and other neighbors.

Thus, there is so much in a name. Relationship, familiarity, and identity are connected to names. To Jesus’ name is connected salvation, relationship and familiarity with God, and new identity. Jesus values neighbors, and thus I’ve learned the importance of loving mine. And in the process, my life is better, I’m more content, and I’m confident the love that I share with my neighbors honors God.

A time for reflection:

Bruce conveys three very important things in his story. First, the significance of the names of his neighbors. Second, in getting to know your neighbors you will probably come across those who attend different congregations in a neighborhood and how to best relate to them in spite differences. Lastly, the depth of love that he has for his neighbors and their respect for him. How do your neighbors view you? Do you know their names? How do you view your neighbors? If you were to move tomorrow would you be missed?

(Bruce Zachary was raised in a Jewish home, and came to faith in Christ as Messiah 25+ years ago. He has been teaching the Bible for almost 25 years. He and Karen, his lovely bride, have been married since 1991, and are blessed by their sons Joshua and Jonathan. Bruce taught at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s School of the Bible, and is a graduate of CCCM’s School of Ministry. He has been an ordained pastor for nearly 25 years, and was an attorney for 25 years. In 1996 he planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, California., where he continues to serve as lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books, and also serves as the director of the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN] a global church planting initiative.)





Listen to Bruce Zachary's experience with Neighborhood Initiative.

Listen to Dallas Willard's word to pastors and leaders about Neighborhood Initiative.

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!