What's in a name?

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I recently flew into Chicago, USA, landing in O’Hare International Airport.

Between terminal 1 and 2 is a memorial to Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare, after whom the airport was named. Alongside his statue is a medal and a plaque, acknowledging him as the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honour.

During the Second World War he was a fighter pilot assigned to the South Pacific. On February 20, 1942, Butch O’Hare’s squadron was sent on a mission. After taking off and flying some distance, he looked at his control panel and realised that his plane had never been refuelled. He did not have enough fuel to complete the mission and get back to his ship. After radioing through his predicament, his flight leader told him to return to the aircraft carrier.

Reluctantly he dropped out of formation and headed back towards the fleet. As he was returning to the aircraft carrier Lexington, he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese bombers were speeding towards the American fleet. The American fighters had all left on the mission and the fleet carrier was left pretty much defenceless.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he plunged into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 calibre guns blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch weaved in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until finally all his ammunition had been used up. Not to be stopped, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to at least clip off a wing or tail, in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly. He was desperate to do anything he could to keep them from reaching the American ships.

Eventually the exasperated Japanese had had enough of the crazy pilot and took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had destroyed five enemy bombers.  For His bravery he was awarded the medal, and his name lives on to this day, with Chicago’s International Airport named after him.

Another name synonymous with the city of Chicago is Al Capone, a notorious Mafia gangster. At that time, Al Capone virtually owned the city. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was, however, notorious for his involvement in illegal alcohol trade, prostitution and murder.

Easy Eddie was Capone’s lawyer and for good reason. He was excellent at what he did and kept Big Al out of jail for many years. Capone showed his appreciation by paying him huge sums of money and perks like a family mansion that took up an entire city block. Yes, Eddie lived the life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the evil that went on around him.

Sacrificed – a good name

Eddie had a son that he loved dearly. He saw to it that his young son had the best of everything. Nothing was withheld, and, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong, and encouraged him to rise above his own sordid life. He wanted him to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there was something Eddie couldn’t give his son. Something Eddie had sacrificed to the Capone mob which he could not pass on to his well loved son: a good name.  

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Offering his son a good name was far more important than all the riches he could pour out on him. He had to rectify all the wrong he had done. He would go to the authorities and tell the truth about ‘Scar-face’ Al Capone. He would try to clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this he had to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great.

On Wednesday, November 8, 1939, after testifying, Easy Eddie was shot and killed. He was 46 years old, and had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer at the greatest price he would ever pay.

I know what you’re probably thinking; what do these two stories have to do with one another?
Well, you see, Easy Eddie’s real name was Edward Joseph O’Hare, Butch O’Hare’s father.

Wear the name proudly

Each of us carried the dirty name of ‘Sinner’, and God gave his life for us so that we too might cast aside the albatross around our neck. We are God’s people, his dearly beloved children and bear his name now. We read in Acts 11:26 that the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. The term “Christian” means “Christ-ones” or ‘little Christs’ As Christians, we all carry around the name of Christ wherever we go.

1 Peter 2:9-12:  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

We are the people of God. Wherever we go and whatever we do reflects back on God and how the world thinks of him. When those people at Antioch were called Christians, they wore the name proudly. The reason they were called ‘Christians’ is because they lived like Christ – they were different. It was an honour and a responsibility and certainly not something which was taken lightly. One reason it wasn’t taken lightly, was that at various times in the last two thousand years, many had to sacrifice their lives for bearing that name.

How do we treat the title ‘Christian?’ Do we act as though all it means is that we will go into his kingdom when we die, but it has nothing to do with how we live? Did you know that according to the 2001 Census, almost 80% of SA citizens claim to be  Christian? But how many of them act like Christians? To a large number, to be a Christian – to bear the name of Christ – means no more than being a Lions or Chiefs supporter!

If it meant to us what it was supposed to, then the divorce rate among Christians wouldn’t be virtually as high as the rest of the population. Christians wouldn’t cheat on their taxes if we took seriously the name we bear. Christians wouldn’t allow pornography into their homes through the internet or the TV if we realized the shame that brings on the name of God. Christians wouldn’t harbour an unforgiving attitude and bitterness toward one another if they truly knew that their forgiveness and reconciliation would bring glory to God. Do we sometimes shame the name of God by the way we live?!

1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
If we pray “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name...” shouldn’t we at least be doing all we can to bring that glory to him?

Your name is no longer ‘Sinner’, but ‘Christian’, son or daughter of the Most High God.  Your Father gave it to you, and he gave all he had so you could carry his name. In the same way that Butch O’Hare carried his name, do the same and make your Daddy proud, giving all the Glory and honour back to him.


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