Jesus is how we say it in English, filtered through Greek and Latin. In Hebrew it's closer to Joshua. Same with the title Christ; it was Messiah. In any other language, whatever He is commonly called, none of it matters if He isn't living in the one who carries His name.
Have we so tainted the officially recognized names for God that it now serves only to drive away a certain segment of the population? For years, during my service in the mainstream church organizations of America, the attitude seemed to be: If they can't come to Christ through us, they can't be Christians. Yes, each individual strain of churchianity operated that way, even if they denied it officially. Yet the entire range of Western churches seem to agree on that notion together. If you don't swallow certain traditional baggage, we have no room for you.
It's not simply cultural baggage, but something more subtle, and frankly sinister. Sure, it works for the majority, but what of those who cannot ever be a part of the mainstream? They aren't all simply obstreperous jerks — indeed, most aren't. I maintain they are the ones who see all too clearly the madness of what our society has become, and want no part of it. I never wanted any of it either, but I had to live more than four decades to realize how wrong it all was, and began opting out. A few years ago I completely dropped out of churchianity.
It's not simply evil, because plenty of good servants of God work there. While I maintain they would be better able to serve out of that system, I'll grant to them the freedom to choose they seldom grant to me. Staying in the system to a certain degree is a valid choice. But for those who, for whatever reason, can't do that, there has to be a mission, a doorway to Christ, which does not force them to conform.
That conformity they instinctively and consciously avoid includes a rejection of all the names simply because of how the mainstream has hijacked them. They can't embrace Christ if that name has to mean something which excludes them. Going in His name does not mean some magical word, some ritual formula, but means going about His business. I can't count how often I've been in situations where I didn't say His official name, yet people there knew whom I served. Maybe I couldn't guide them across some invisible line of commitment, but they did come closer.
It's rather like the way people play games with Google Adwords. They purchase the right to associate their marketing lies with certain popular search terms. It's a very competitive bidding process, because only a few ads can be shown each time. So when the world comes through the Google search portal, these marketers can make it seem their product is relevant to just about any word in any language. I think the mainstream Western churches have done that. When I'm called to carry Christ to people who have been hurt and rejected by the church, I can't use those Churchy Adwords.
But He still gets the glory. They still see something of Him, and they know they want it. With some fear and trepidation, I am answering this call. It's not the whole of what I do, but it will become a bigger part of it. I can wave a sign saying, “Repent America! We are under God's wrath.” Not everyone who turns from that message is driven by their own sin. Some are driven by still sensitive wounds, by genuine injustice which came with such language. I have to find them, and give them the same message in terms they still accept.
I still have to carry Christ to them, without damning the process with the culture in which I live.
Ed Hurst is Associate Editor of Open for Business.