By Murray Smith
New Zealand’s early colonial history produced a surge of settlers from England as well as a variety of other European nations. A broad diversity of new ‘names’ rapidly appeared as immigrant families arrived.
Many new names and cultures have integrated over time as ‘settlers’ continue coming from afar making Aotearoa home.
Whatever names you think of whether personal names, or place names, the points of difference in how cultures name things is interesting.
The unique beauty of our indigenous language, Te Reo Maori conveys rich dimensional meaning to the names of people and of places.
Te Reo describes the story of the land and its people, about flora and fauna, all connecting the ancestors with the living whānau. This contributes to a sense of responsibility, of stewardship, aspirational attributes and qualities.
By contrast many English and European names tend to be vague lacking the rich dimensional character of Te Reo.
My surname, “Smith” for example is very common because it relates to a large group of tradies – blacksmiths, tinsmiths, goldsmiths, silversmiths. Names originated merely from what people did… Potter, Cooper, Tailor (Taylor), Weaver, Dyer, Thatcher, Slater, Miller, Baker, Carpenter, Cook, Fisher, Shepherd, Carter, Clarke, Skinner, Gardener…on the list goes. A Hooper made hoops for barrels. A Sawyer sawed logs. A Turner turned wood on a lathe. A Mercer dealt in fine cloth.
Being a ‘smith’ implied neither family relationship nor offered insight beyond a job description whereas Maori names reference who you belong to, character, individuality, and personality.
A name cannot define us or identify our character but how we live out our lives, does that. Having a “good name” is a term used in reference to people being well spoken of… having a good reputation.
Over time, people claimed identification with the name ‘Christian’. That proclamation has become terribly muddied even recently by association with fanatical politics and dodgy hypocrites – little wonder there’s confusion around what someone calling themselves a “Christian” actually means and what ought to be expected of such a person.
Embarrassingly, it’s copped bad press, deservedly earning a tarnished reputation due to claimants possessing the talk but being short on the walk. The need exists for cautiously distinguishing what is genuine among various expressions claiming to be ‘Christian.’ It’s more than claiming a faith system. The name originally was and still should be, the mark of someone who was an authentic Christ follower giving evidence of Christ-likeness.
It hasn’t helped that throughout history wars have been waged, bigotry fuelled, the weak and innocent oppressed and marginalised, all under the banner of “Christianity.”
An authentic Christian’s life will display evidence of a transformed life made possible by personal relationship with Christ. It’s not about religious adherence (remember the fiercest opponents Jesus faced were the religious of His day) but following a Person.
Despite uncertainty existing around who or what a ‘Christian’ really is, be assured the genuine ‘article’ does exist – not yet to a standard of perfection agreed, but authentic modern day disciples of Jesus are out there – hopefully you’ll come across ones who own the name in word and deed.