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You hear it in those old crime movies: “Open up in the name of the law.” Perhaps some story or movie that reflects on the expanding reach of England or Spain in the colonial days will also reflect the sentiment: “I claim this land in the name of the King.”

When we hear those words, we intuitively grasp what is being said. To open the door “in the name of the law” does not mean the police officer is merely tacking “law” on to his demand. The officer is acting in line with the law, for the sake of the law, consistent with what the law is all about. (Or, at least, he should be!) When the explorer places a flag and claims land “in the name of the king” he is not merely pronouncing the king’s name over the property in a magical way. The explorer is acting in line with the king’s wishes, for the benefit of the king and his kingdom, consistent with the aspirations of the kingdom from which he comes.

Unfortunately, followers of Jesus sometimes don’t grasp what it means to say something, or act, or pray “in the name of the Lord.” We tack the words onto the end of our prayers or “say a prayer” over something we are doing so that it will be “in Jesus’ name” without much reflection on what that genuinely means.

Paul calls us to think well about this in his letter to the Colossians:

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17)

What does it mean to do everything we do–whether in what we say or what we actually do–“in the name of the Lord Jesus”?

Just thinking through the implications of this raises questions in my mind and heart. And the questions nudge me to think better about what this means.

Is Jesus’ reputation advanced or hampered by what I say in conversation? By what I do?

Would others recognize that what I am doing is consistent with Jesus’ life and purpose and priorities?

Is Jesus’ manifest presence extended by what I do? Through what I say?

Are my words and actions consistent with who Jesus is? With his own mission and ministry in the world?

I think Jesus, himself, epitomizes what Paul is pointing to here. Jesus could say that he always did what was pleasing to the Father (John 8:29). Jesus explained he came to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). Jesus insists that he doesn’t act on his own initiative but follows the Father’s lead (John 12:49: 14:10). Jesus states that he is all about the Father’s glory (John 7:18; 8:50; 17:4). All this helps us understand what Jesus means when he says that he came in the Father’s name (John 5:43: 10:25).

Watching Jesus live and minister “in the name of the Father” helps me understand how far I have yet to grow in doing everything I do in the name of our great and loving friend and Savior, Jesus.

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