Names often have a way of losing their original meaning.
Motorola. This week (September 25) marks the anniversary of this company that we all associate with cell phones. But when the Gavin Brothers launched the company in 1928, they were working on a car radio most people could afford. Two years later, they had it, so they combined the words “motor” with the name of the widely-popular Victrola phonograph and came up with Motorola.
7-11. The original U-Tote-Em convenience stores changed their name to 7-11 in 1946 to instill in people’s minds their extended hours: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.. That’s ironic, since for over 50 years, most of their stores are open 24 hours.
Canon. The company’s first camera was called Kwanon, named after the Buddhist goddess of mercy. To make the camera more appealing in America, they changed Kwanon to Canon.
Saab. At the outbreak of World War II, the Swedes needed airplanes. Svenska Aeroplan Aktie Bolag (Swedish Airplane Corporation) opened for business and supplied the Royal Swedish Air Force with planes. When the war ended, they switched to manufacturing cars, but they keep the name SAAB.
Lego. Want to say “play well” in Danish? Leg godt.
Sharp. In 1915, Tokuji Hayakawa invented the “Ever-Sharp Mechanical Pencil.” Although business was quite good, an earthquake destroyed the plant in 1923. They decided to move from pencils to radios, but they kept the name Sharp.
We have three examples of company names.
- Some companies are still accurately reflected in their names.
- Some companies have added extensively to their catalog of products and are known for far more than what they were originally known for.
- Some companies moved completely away from the product that established them.
I am aware of one name that, unfortunately, has done all three.
Some people carry the name Christian, but they have added so much more to its meaning. They’ve added politics … or rules … or rituals … or cultural expectations.
- If you’re a Christian, why wouldn’t you vote Republican?
- Real Christians don’t get tattoos … or watch those shows.
They’ve added so many layers that have nothing to do with walking by grace and faith in Christ.
Some people wear the label of Christian, but they define it by their own standards.
- Sure, I’m a Christian, but I’m not hung up on the whole church thing.
- I think Jesus can be found even in Hinduism, but I choose to worship Him as a Christian.
- Being a Christian means you love Jesus who won’t judge you for your lifestyle.
Both approaches have made Christian something it’s not. The word literally means an adherent—a devotee— of Christ. The word only appears in the Bible three times, and each time, it carries a hint of derision.
- The Gentiles in Antioch first called the followers Christians (Acts 11:26). It was a way of making fun of them for the way they stood out from the culture.
- When Paul was defending himself before King Agrippa , Agrippa had no interest in the gospel and said, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28). Can you hear the disdain in his words?
- Peter wrote to the church about persecution and how to respond “if you suffer as a Christian” (1 Pet. 4:16).
In each case, Christian had to do with how the outside world saw believers. They meant it in jest and contempt, but believers embraced the name along with the suffering they endured for the name of Christ.
Let’s return to our name. Let’s be identified as those who are truly devoted and committed to Jesus Christ. Let’s lose it as merely a sign of family heritage. Let’s lose it as a political identity. Let’s lose it as just a way to explain our religious views.
Let’s be Christians.