Name Calling

Joe R. Price

Nobody I know enjoys being called a name. It is a vehicle of reproach, ridicule, and the demeaning of the person who is its recipient. Children learn this device early (I wonder who they learned it from?!). Some carry this verbally abusive treatment of others with them for a lifetime. Jesus tells us that Christians will, on occasion, be the target of such name calling -- or worse (Mt. 5:11). Jesus was the object of verbal ridicule on many occasions (cf. Mt. 11:18-19; 27:12, 39-44). We must be ready and willing to suffer this and other reproaches for wearing the name of Christ (1 Pet. 4:14-16).

Another type of "name calling" that occurs to me is one which, at times, Christians must do. This has to do with identification. This type of "name calling" falls into two categories. First, we are told to "mark" those who set forth worthy examples to follow (Phil. 3:17). And, Paul called names of people in this way (Phil. 2:19-30; 2 Tim. 1:16-18; 3 Jn. 12). There is nothing wrong with commending those worthy of commendation. In this way we can "mark" the examples we ought to follow.

We are also called upon by God to identify those who, through sin and error, cause strife and division (Phil. 3:18-19; Rom. 16:17-18). At times it becomes necessary to specifically identify (call the name of) the person(s) from whom we should "turn away" (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2: 17-18; 3 Jn. 9-10). False teachers contribute to division and the loss of souls (read those last scriptures again!). To avoid encouraging error and to escape its deceptive clutches, Christians must have accurate information! While it is not always necessary to "name names" where error is involved (1 Cor. 15:12), neither can we divorce the error from the person who teaches it. Men influence others through their actions and their words. We must not shy away from properly identifying false teachers. Some were offended when Jesus used such a straightforward approach to error (Mt. 15:3-12), and some are offended today. But, God's people must never be!