By Daryl Booth of Sarx
The movement of the heart is the Spirit’s transformative action within a believer which brings to birth a new person in Christ:
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The New Testament underlines how a believer is made new in Christ and often through the process of re-naming. Saul becomes Paul. Simon becomes Peter.
The reason for this renaming is that within ancient Jewish culture, your name wasn’t simply what you are called. Rather it spoke of your very essence. To ask someone’s name was to ask ‘who are you?’ Therefore the giving of a new name was to bestow someone with a new identity:
… and he brought Simon to Jesus. When Jesus saw him, He said, "You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which means "Peter"). (John 1:42)
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church (Matthew 16:18)
Peter’s new identity as the rock of the Church was made possible through Christ’s redeeming work, a timeless act of love which brought healing to all creation:
and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace by the blood of His cross through Him, whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens. (Colossians 1:20)
Yet it is not just humans who are given names. After God named Adam (Gen 2:19), God instructed Adam to name the animals and to be loving and responsible for them.
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; (Genesis 2:20)
Personally, I don’t believe this to be a single, one-off event. Rather I think that the naming of God’s other creatures is a challenge issued to all humanity and is part of the responsibility of being granted dominion. For we share the planet with millions of other species, all of which are lovingly made and sustained by a God who rejoices in each and every one.
Yet by what names do we call them? Has not our culture’s general apathy towards animals christened them as product, experiment, sport or ingredient? Have we in turn named ourselves as consumers, masters or despots?
In light of God’s love for all animals and Christ’s work to redeem the whole created order, are these really suitable categories for His creation?
I believe that since Christ’s work has made all things new, it is time for another process of re-naming; the renewal of God's naming of humanity and a call for us to rethink how we name the rest of creation. For should not those who follow after the merciful Prince of Peace, think of themselves as stewards of creation, compassionatecarers or the servant-hearted species?
For these new names for us could dramatically affect how we, as those entrusted with the care of animals, name them. For indeed, it was St. Francis of Assisi, who in understanding the divine origin of all creatures beloved of God, was so bold as to call them ‘brother’ and ‘sister’.
How will you name them?