Summary: Our name does not define us, Christ does.
Our names say a lot about us. We put thought into what we name our children and our pets. Some of us even name our cars. Everything has to have a name. Some names are strong and powerful, some are humble and meek, and others…well…
In April of 1940, a baby was born in New Jersey. This boy was one of many born that day, but his story is much different. His name is much different. It’s a name that carries the weight of an absent father, a name that has a story of betrayal, deceit, and abandonment. His name is Philander Rodman. Think about those names. Some of you may think of one or two things, some of you have no clue what they mean. Philander is the memory of a philandering father. A father who had a lot of girlfriends and children. A father who went from one relationship to the other. The other name, Rodman, may remind us of Hall of Fame basketball bad boy Dennis Rodman. The same Dennis Rodman who had colored hair, wore a wedding dress in Sports Illustrated, and had numerous flings with Playboy models.
Philander Rodman is the father of Dennis Rodman. Philander was reminded his whole life about what his name meant. People who didn’t know him, would make remarks about his name. His mother ad grandmother would always make comments about the man who left them and broke all his promises. They joked about how many kids he had, and would often take their aggression out on Philander. All of this led to Philander being everything his name said about him. As of 2016, Philander James Rodman has 29 kids with 16 women. He currently lives in the Phillipines with his two wives. He has only met Dennis once since he left him and his mother when he was 8.
You see, Philander chose to live up to the name he was given. He was reminded over and over again about his father. His grandma and mom would talk about his father, and how they looked alike. Whenever Philander would mess up, he would hear them say “just like his daddy.” Its hard to outlive someone like that, when its all you here.
We all have names. Some of us know what Philander has gone through in his life. The weight that a name carries. Maybe it isn’t something bad, it could be the name of someone great, and there are expectations of greatness. I want to look at two particular portions of Scripture today. One was read for us in Ephesians and the other is found in Romans 8:14-17.
As we move through this teaching today, I want us to focus on this idea of adoption. It has meaning to us. Even if we are not adopted, or have never adopted anyone, we still know what it means. We are taken in, to a place that isn’t our own, loved and given a new name. No matter who we are, where we came from, or what happened to us, we are given new life. A new opportunity to be more than our name or our circumstances.
Romans 8:13-14 says “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” There is more to our portion of Scripture, but I want to start here. We all have something inescapable. Its this part of us that we are born with. This gross sinful nature that leads us to do things we really shouldn’t be doing. Up until some point in our life, this sinful nature is what leads us to get in trouble. You don’t have to teach children to be bad, you have to teach them to be good. We are born sinful. If we don’t teach our kids about the consequences of lying, they will continue to lie, and so on. Kids do what they can to protect themselves when they do something wrong. They don’t really have a moral compass that leads them to certain decisions. Some adults, unfortunately, still live this way. As children. Some, like Philander, cant move past all the weight that their names carry.
On August 20, 1979, a young teenage mom had an appointment for an abortion. Very few people knew. She felt alone and scared. She knew how God felt about it, but she didn’t know how she was going to take care of a baby. Abortions are expensive and she didn’t know how she was going to pay for it. She had a dad, but he was gone from her life for most of it and she didn’t know how to ask him. She spoke to him with guilty words and said that if he gave her the money then she would name her first born son after him. Feeling as though he owed it to his little girl, he gave her the money. No strings attached. Her father came from a family of wonderful people. His sisters and parents were amazingly Godly people, who lived only to serve Jesus. He was the black sheep who smoked, drank heavily, and slept around on his wife. He was never around for his three girls, and thought that he could buy their love. This teenage girl’s best friend had just had a son of her own a few months before. She also was unmarried and scared, but had decided to keep him. Two days before the abortion, this girl was scheduled in the nursery at church. Her friend brought her new son to church that day. As this girl contemplated the next few days as she sat in the nursery, she laid down next to this little boy and played. They smiled together, she fed him, and she finally laid him in her arms for a nap. In those moments, on that day, she decided that whatever would happen in her future, she wanted her baby to be a part of it. The next morning she cancelled her appointment, and seven months later, on March 30, 1980, she had her son. Even though she didn’t go through with the abortion, she had made a promise to her father that she would name her first born son after him. When the nurse came in later that day, she had her write Robert William Key on the birth certificate. Just like his grandfather. Robert, nickname Bobby.