Names mean a lot, and parents are usually very careful about the names they choose for their children. They are usually just as careful in the names they avoid.

For instance, no one names their child Judas. It just isn’t done. Although that name at one time held a high and noble meaning, it no longer does. Judas is the Greek version of the name Judah, which means “praised.” It was the tribe of Judah that led the Israelites out of the slavery of Egypt and into the Promised Land. King David and Jesus were from that particular tribe. So was Judas Iscariot. His actions caused a mar against that name forever.

The same goes for the name Benedict Arnold. Many parents will name their children after famous people (Martin Luther, George Washington, etc.), but you won’t find any Benedict Arnold Joneses on the rolls in the local school.

And names can put an awful burden on people. Shortly after South Carolina native Shawn Weatherly won the Miss Universe contest in 1980, many young girls were named Shawn.

A couple of friends named their first son Carter Redding. Named after a compassionate president who took his faith seriously and a blues singer who set our feet to dancing with songs like “These Arms of Mine” and our hearts to moaning with “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay,” he will have a great name to set him on the road.

On the other hand, some names actually shape our lives. It’s amazing how many Methodist preachers have the name “John Wesley.” I believe there are at least four in South Carolina alone.

Martin Luther King Jr. was named not only after his father but after the great reformer. And just as Martin Luther called the church to reform its ways and live up to its original calling, Martin Luther King Jr. called our country to reform its ways and live up to the ideals expressed by its earliest documents.

Here’s a thought: What if we all lived up to the highest ideals of our names? Or even better yet, the name God gives us. That name is “child of God.” You are a child of God. May you know what that name means and live up to it.

Michael B. Henderson is the minister at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Florence and a member of the Morning News’ Faith & Values Advisory Board. Contact him at