Monday, July 16, 2012

Jesus is Lord

Nobody likes to get political in church, and in many contexts it's impossible, but we've got to get at least political enough to say that "Jesus is Lord." Now, it's important to remember that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection did not happen just in some spiritual realm, it wasn't on some island in heaven. The reality of Jesus was a historical reality, indeed it was even a political reality. Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross, crucified as "king of the Jews." He was killed because he was a challenge to the powers that be, because he sided with the least and the lost and threatened the authority of the religious leaders of his day. He inaugurated an ironic new kingdom, the Kingdom of God... Ironic because it was so unlike the kingdoms which preceded it. It was a kingdom where the last became first and the first became last. His power came through humility, his victory came through death.

Listen to the way Paul describes it...

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11 NIV)


This wasn't just some spiritual victory. It was a victory in the heart of human history, in the reality of human experience. Jesus' victory was the true and certain victory of God's kingdom, a new way of ordering the world around us. To restore all things, even human relationships to the way they were created to exist.

The word "gospel"--euangelion in Greek--was not original. It was borrowed from the Roman empire. It was a term used to describe a political announcement, usually the announcement of a victory in battle. So when the first Christians applied the term to Jesus' life and ministry, it was a huge political statement, a statement of Jesus' victory over the powers and a proclamation of his lordship... Not what Caesar and his loyalists who freely and frequently proclaimed "Caesar is lord" would have liked to hear. The first Christians' announcement of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that "Jesus is Lord" was deeply subversive. The first Christians understood Jesus' work as profoundly, though perhaps ironically, political.

I know we don't like to get political in church but have to at least get political enough to say, along with those first Christians, that "Jesus is Lord" with all the immediate and systemic relevance it entails. Jesus is Lord... not Caesar and not any other power that might seek to stake claim on God's world. If we could sum up the gospel in three words, it would be "Jesus is Lord!" ...and then to live by those words should change the way we live in the world. It's not just a commentary regarding our spiritual status or our post-mortem destination. It means aligning this world according to the values of its king.

To say "Jesus is Lord" is to affirm his authority not only in heaven but on earth, in the the way we order and orient the systems of society... "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord."


1 comment:

Steve Swope said...

The German Confessing Church in the 1930's knew that faith is political. When they stated in the Barmen Declaration that Jesus is Lord (Fuehrer in German), they were explicitly proclaiming that Hitler was not.