What Does “In Jesus’ Name” Actually Mean?

Christians will typically end their prayers by saying, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Yet most Christians don’t know what they mean when they say it. They think it is just a signal to God that they are about done—the prayer equivalent of saying, “OK, I guess I’ll let you go! TTYL.”

But that’s not the point. When you say, “In Jesus’ name,” you are saying, “I am asking for these things according to Jesus’ will, for his glory, and in his power.”

We should be able to say that over literally everything we do. When we sit down at our desk and open our inbox to start our day, we should say, “In Jesus’ name.” When we meet up with a friend for lunch, we should think, “In Jesus’ name.” When a person tries to merge in traffic ahead of us—yep, even then—“In Jesus’ name.” When we kiss our spouse when we get home from work: “In Jesus’ name.”

Now, we don’t have to start saying that at every turn—people think Christians are strange enough without us doing weird stuff like that. But we should think of every interaction as done in Jesus’ name—that is, first and foremost as an offering to him.

Paul instructed the church in Colossae, “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 CSB).

In every interaction—not just the spiritual ones—we should be able to say, “I am doing this in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

We may look like we’re doing things for and to others, but we’re actually doing things for and to him. We live for an audience of one: “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord” (Colossians 3:23–24a).

We serve the Lord Jesus Christ in every second of every day. Every single thing we do, every step we take, every word we utter should be thought of first and foremost as an offering to Jesus.

When we are making a decision about how to respond to that person that cut us off in traffic—we are responding first and foremost to Jesus. We may feel like that person doesn’t deserve our patience (we may even think he deserves a one-finger salute), but the question is what Jesus deserves.

As you do your job (Colossians 3:22), you are doing it first and foremost as an offering to him. Your boss might be a jerk. He may not be paying you what you deserve—and there’s certainly a time to address that. But even when he does not deserve your best, Jesus does.

The flip side of this is true as well. If you’re a supervisor, you shouldn’t be thinking of your employees as tools to enhance your bottom line. You should be treating them with compassion and generosity because you share something in common with them: You’re all servants of the same Master. What you do to them, you do to Jesus (cf. Matthew 25:40).

When you are figuring out how to respond to your spouse (v. 19), who has been unfairly impatient with you all day, you are responding first and foremost to Jesus. You may not feel like your spouse deserves a kind and tender response, but Jesus does.

Children (v. 20), your parents are not perfect, but they are the God-appointed authority in your life at this time, and how you obey and respect them is how you respect and respond to him. You respond to them first and foremost as a response to Jesus.

Parents, your children are not ultimately yours. They have been given to you by God, and he intends for you to shepherd them with the same patience and grace that God has shown you. How you interact with them should say, “I do this in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Are there times when we need to put up boundaries in these relationships? Absolutely. Are there times when spouses (or parents, or bosses) abuse their power? Sadly, there are. We should never take Paul’s words here as encouragement to remain in or enable abusive relationships. God has called us to willing sacrifice, but he has not called us to be victims. Enabling abuse is neither loving to the abuser nor honoring to God.

We shouldn’t miss, however, just how broad Paul’s commands are here. Paul gives commands about seemingly mundane relationships—husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants—because our response to Jesus should transform every relationship we have.

To paraphrase the theologian Abraham Kuyper, there is not one square inch of your entire life over which Jesus does not emphatically declare, “Mine!”

One last word of counsel: You may be one of the many people trying to figure out how to serve Jesus in your job, and sometimes people come up with some crazy ideas.

Allow me to illustrate.

A 2004 Wall Street Journal article tells the story of an American Airlines pilot who went with his church on a mission trip and came back all fired up for Jesus. On one of his next flights, he came on the intercom as they taxied down the runway and asked, “How many of you are born-again Christians? Raise your hands.”

Several hands were raised, some rather sheepishly. They weren’t sure where the pilot was going with this.

He went on, “If you raised your hand, great! If not, if we don’t make it to our destination, do you know for sure what’s going to happen to you when you die? If not, I invite you to talk to one of those people that just raised their hand and ask them to explain to you the way of eternal life.”

I commend the guy for his zeal. But I am also not surprised that he no longer flies for American Airlines.

Yes, you should look for places to share Christ, including at your workplace. But doing your job in Jesus’ name is about more than sneaking in stealthy evangelism strikes.

Working “in Jesus’ name” is just as much about how you fly the plane—metaphorically speaking. It’s about how you take off and land, how you treat others while you’re doing it, and even how you are committed to training up others and sharing your knowledge and power.