My three faithful hounds belong, I think, to the dog breed with the longest name. They are Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, a breed which traces its roots back to 16th cent France. Bred for following huntsmen on foot rather than horseback, what they lack in speed they more than make up for in stamina. Their original quarry was wild boar, though there are not too many of those in this part of Swansea so my little pack have to content themselves with alarming any local cat foolish enough to take a short-cut through our garden. The breed name is a description of the dog: Petit (small) Basset (short-legged) Griffon (rough-coated) Vendeen (from the Vendee region of France). If you know what the words mean, reading the name gives an indication of what the dog will be like in a way that few other breed names do.
Of course, the name is not the end of the description. The PBGV, like all breeds, has a breed standard which sets out the breed characteristics in some detail. A dog which bears the name PBGV should at least resemble the standard.
One of my dogs, though he is a PBGV in name, is anything but petit. In fact, he is distinctly grand-ish. He doesn’t meet the standard, and never will. He has the name, but lacks at least one important characteristic. (But don’t misunderstand me — he is a great family dog!) “Names” and “standards” have been on my mind the last day or two in relation to believers. We bear the name “Christian”, but how do we meet the standard? The Church has tended to focus on orthodoxy (right believing) as the test of salvation, rightly turning away from the temptation to believe that salvation from God can be earned. I wonder, though, if we have given insufficient attention to orthopraxis (or right-doing)? No one could read the gospels for the first time and come away with the conclusion that it is only what we believe that has a bearing on our salvation.
When Jesus tells us “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. - no one comes to the Father but by me” he surely means much more than “anyone who prays the prayer will be OK”. He says “I am the way” and then shows us what that means by going to the Cross. The “breed standard” for the Christian is not to be found in any book, set down in any creed or been codified in doctrine, important as those things are. Our breed standard is the Cross of Christ, and the call that goes out from there is the one with which Christ began and ended his ministry in Galilee: “Follow me.”