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The nominative case

It’s funny how a person’s name can be opposed to their character. I’ve met a Grace who was graceless, a Felicity who had a bad temper, a Faith who was completely secular, and a Christian who was anything but. I wondered if such persons were ever conscious of the mismatch, or blissfully unaware that their personal manners contradicted their personal nouns. (On the other hand, I once met a man on a train called Blade, whom I secretly hoped had been incorrectly named!)

There was a man in the Book who suffered from a mismatching name. One of the smaller texts in the Book tells the story of a servant who ran away from his master. His name was Onesimus, which means ‘useful’. I’m not sure his master would have thought him so when the abscondence became known throughout the household: “Useless so-and-so!” But something happened to Onesimus to heal the disconnect between his actions and his appellation.

In the sovereign providence of God, Onesimus ran into the Apostle Paul, who couldn’t help but tell the runaway about a Man whose character matched His name exactly, and whose courage matched His duty. A Servant whose birthname means the ‘One who saves’. Onesimus returned to his employer a changed man, with a heart prepared to serve and a name that matched. And by that very same heart-transforming gospel, I have met a Grace who exuded kindness, and a Felicity who radiated peace, and a Christian who wore the name well.

DM 14th August 2021


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