“Greet the friends by name.” (3 John 14d)
This guideline from the Apostle John for inter-personal exchange seems very basic, but I can’t help but suspect there is more than etiquette involved. It implies that impersonal greetings were common then, just as they are now, but there are other implications as well, I think.
First, names are important. It’s safe to say we are talking about what used to be called “Christian” names. Not the name you were born with (your family name), but the name you were given at birth, and in some cases, christened. They do not alone reflect who we are, but they do often say something about what or who was important to our parents at this time in their lives. Some, as in the case of my husband and I, choose Bible names for their children. Others want the names of beloved family members to be repeated. Some identify with the society around them, by picking current favorites; while others, on the other hand, seek to assert their non-conformity by choosing odd, sometimes startling, names. One way or the other, our name, coupled with our appearance, sets us apart from others. That’s why when we see someone we have met, but whose name we can’t recall, we search our brains trying to put a name to that face. And well we should, which brings me to my next thought.
Name calling (the right kind) is a godly trait. In fact, we know from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John that our claim to being one of God’s sheep is based on the fact that He calls us “by name” (v. 3). Does He call us by our given names, like Richard, Mary, or Salle? Well, when He lived here on earth, He called men and women by their earthly names; but frankly, if He wants to call me by a different name in Heaven, I’ll be glad to answer to it. My point here is that if Jesus called people by their names, so should we.
Finally, this is not really about learning names; it’s about learning people. It’s about esteeming others better than ourselves (Philip. 2:3). Tell me; is it more important to you for others to remember your name than for you to remember theirs? You see, some people are not really connecting; they’re simply making connections. I blush to think of the so-called, “big names” I remember, and the supposedly little ones I have forgotten. Those saints of God who quietly slipped in and out of my life, leaving a remembered blessing, but a forgotten name. This speaks well of them but little of me. And, sadly, now that I am older (and hopefully wiser) it is even harder to remember names. But I do take John’s admonition seriously, and, by God’s grace, I will “greet the friends by name.”