I verb names. When I meet someone in Scripture whose character nudges my heart, I verb their name. Sometimes, when I read about someone in the Bible, I see a bit of myself in them and it shines a bright light on my own sin. Elihu, for example. He is not someone you’d want to emulate. But several years ago, while reading about him, I realized that Elihu and I shared some not-so-lovely qualities. After a few minutes of contemplation and confession, I verbed his name. Ever since then, the name Elihu has been my word for arrogance and a lack of respect for elders. I’ve tried to steer clear of Elihuing.
Last night in the closing session of my first YBH study, I found another name that is also worth verbing, but for an entirely different reason: this guy is totally worth emulating.
I’ve missed him in all the previous study I’ve done in Colossians. Maybe this is because he is only briefly mentioned. But the sentence that contains his name is full of meaning. This is what it says:
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you…”
– Colossians 4:10a
That’s it. That’s all it says.
Now, there is more to learn about Aristarchus for those who want to, but that little bit was enough for me. It comes right in the middle of a list of faithful servants that Paul mentions at the close of the book. Almost all of those named are identified in some way as being devoted both to Paul as well as to the Lord.
But Aristarchus had a little something extra. He wasn’t just another faithful servant. He was also a fellow prisoner with Paul.
And he does something that I’m not sure I’d do if I was imprisoned. Aristarchus knew Paul was writing to a group of faithful, growing believers and, while he was in prison, he asked Paul to share greetings on his behalf.
“Tell them I said ‘hello!'”
“Let them know they’re on my heart!”
“I hope they are all doing well.”
I don’t really know what Aristarchus said. I just know that he was in prison and was able to find joy for a group of people whose situation was decidedly better than his own.
I thought about it for a minute or two and I told my class, “I want to be Aristarchus!”
“Why would you want to be in prison?” someone asked.
Well, I don’t really want to be in prison. I do, however, want to be the kind of servant who can still love my brothers well even in the midst of my own trials. I want to have a heart that is joyful over others’ growth regardless of my circumstances. The next time I’m struggling, I want God’s power enabling me to Aristarchus.
The verbing of Aristarchus came to me as we were discussing all of those faithful believers mentioned at the end of Colossians. One suggestion I had for the class was to keep a running list of the people mentioned in Scripture and what is said about their character. By adding to the list with each new book we study, we will slowly begin to grow an impressive list of traits, both godly and ungodly. It will bring sin to mind that we can confess, and it will also re-focus us on characteristics that we can, by God’s power, begin to emulate.
And there will likely be a few good names that really stick with us: some names worth verbing.