Cocke County Child Support Magistrate Lu Anne Ballew changed seven-month-old Martin McCullough’s name from “Messiah” when a debate arose over the child’s surname during a child support case. The baby’s mother, Jaleesa Martin, says she is “shocked” that the ruling changed her child’s first name based on the judge’s “religious beliefs.”
Martin McCullough was born in January of this year, bearing his mother’s surname and the first name “Messiah.” It was later proposed in court that the child should bear his father’s last name as well, and Judge Ballew decided that the name “Martin McCullough” would both include each parent’s surname and reserve the title “Messiah” for the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ.
“The word ‘Messiah’ is a title,” said the Judge, “and it’s a title that has only been earned by one Person. That one Person is Jesus Christ.” She said that the name change was also an effort to protect the child from future harassment, especially because he is being raised in a county with a strong Christian presence.
The word “Messiah” means, “Anointed,” “Christ,” and “Savior.” The Old Testament points to the God-man Who would redeem His people from slavery to sin and death. Jesus, the Person in the Trinity Who came down to earth to save us from the penalty of our sin, is also referred to as the “Son of God” and the “King of Israel” in Scripture. In a sermon from 2008, John Piper noted that these two titles were “linked in the Old Testament as twin titles for the Messiah” in Psalm 2:2-7.
Jesus was killed by fervent Pharisees who thought He was blaspheming because He said He was the Son of God, the Messiah Who would redeem His people (see Luke 4:16-21). John 5:18 says, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (English Standard Version).
While Jaleesa Martin says that she did not name her child “Messiah” because it had anything to do with God, such a glorious title should not be taken so lightly. The mother of three plans to appeal Judge Ballew’s decision - “I think I should be able to name my child what I want to name him,” she said.