In a traditional monogram, the first letter (to the left) is for one’s first name. However, in certain monograms (at least for women, as described by Wikipedia), the middle letter is the first letter of a particular person’s last name (i.e., their surname or family name), and is often shown larger than the other two initials. The third letter in a monogram (to the right) is then populated with a middle initial.
When someone is adopted into God’s family, we sort of acquire a new surname. We are part of the family of God, and we serve Jesus Christ. This doesn’t just define our role or give us some sort of “diploma”. It fundamentally changes our relationship with the God of the universe. (And, if you didn’t know, this isn’t something God did reluctantly or angrily. He wanted to bring fallen people into His family, even after we stomped out on Him.)
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
Ephesians 1:4-7 NIV
As a result, the name of Jesus should figure prominently in our lives. When people look at us, they should see more of Him and less of us. In fact, we might say that we have a big “J” right in the middle of our monogram, representing our new family name.
(Of course, this doesn’t mean that we become any less a part of our other families. God invented the family unit, and when members of the same earthly family follow Him, the bonds between them can grow even stronger. In addition, no matter how many or how few relatives that you have, becoming part of God’s family makes you a brother or sister to millions of others around the world that God has brought together.)
But, what does the “name of Jesus” actually mean? I sometimes envision Jesus’ name as something with authority, like a royal seal or a letterhead. We can ask and act in Jesus’ name with great power behind us, even as we also realize that using His name comes with the responsibility of using it as He has directed us to.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38 NIV
However, I’d like to consider the more literal meaning of the name, “Jesus”. Like the Old Testament name “Joshua” (which is still in use today), it can be translated as “the Lord saves”. When combined with His title, “Christ” (or Messiah, which is the same thing), we find that Jesus was and is the special promised One through whom God would save us.
What better family name could we take on than that? Many people call themselves “Christians” (and live in a way that demonstrates the accuracy of this claim), pointing people to Jesus Christ, who God sent to save us (just like He promised). People may also describe themselves as “followers of Jesus”, which similarly attests to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Speaking to those who do consider Jesus as their Savior and their Lord, we should make Jesus Christ front and center, just like a hypothetical monogram. As we tell people the good news, it’s not about us (neither our own righteousness nor our own superiority), but rather about Jesus: the one who paid for our sins when we could not, and gave us blessings that we did not earn. As we live out our lives, it should be as those who are focused on giving glory to the God who loved us, reached out to us in reconciliation, and paid the price for us to be saved from the eternal consequences of our bad choices.
May our words and actions show that we have a “holy monogram” today, where Jesus Christ is front and center, and our own recognition, preferences, and glory take a back seat to His.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11 NIV
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.