Reflections on Jesus as Lord

Reflections on Jesus as Lord June 24, 2014

What does profession “Jesus is Lord” mean for us today? Well, some time ago H.A.A. Kennedy opined that “the term ‘Lord’ has become one of the most lifeless words in the Christian vocabulary.” When the title “Lord” lost its reverence it also lost its relevance and the title was reduced to something like “a spiritually meaningful religious leader.” That is such a travesty because adoration of Jesus as Lord is no empty confession and not a vague religious platitude. More likely, as Kennedy himself adds, “To enter into its meaning and to give it practical effect would be to re-create, in great measure, the atmosphere of the Apostolic Age.” I concur with Kennedy. To confess that Jesus is “Lord” is to announce that he is Lord of all. At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every Hindu, and every atheist, and they will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I don’t know whether you’ve thought about it, but this is deeply offensive and disturbing stuff to postmodern sensibilities. Confession of Jesus as Lord implies that all religions are not equal. Jesus is not a leader who has his authority curtailed by politicians or sociologists telling him which areas of life he’s allowed to give people advice on. Jesus is the boss of everyone’s religion, politics, economics, ethics, and everything. Jesus is not interested in trying to capture a big chunk of the religious market; to the contrary, he’s in the business of completely monopolizing it with the glory, justice, and power of heaven. As Abraham Kuyper famously declared that “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence which Christ who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” If that is the case, then true discipleship is about dutifully and faithfully living out the lordship of Jesus Christ. Discipleship means ordering our lives according to his story, symbols, teaching, and authority. Evangelism is not about asking people to try Jesus the way they might try a new decaf moccacino latte from Starbucks. It is more like declaring the victory of the Lord Jesus over sin and death, warning of the judgment to be made by the Lord Jesus over all rebellion, and inviting people to find joy and satisfaction in the life and love that come from the Lord Jesus Christ.

In my travels abroad I have noted that there is a strong historical aversion in American culture to monarchs, masters, and lords. There is no American royal family – though if we get another Clinton or Bush in the White House it might be a de facto royal dynasty if you ask me – and such a family would not be welcomed in most quarters. Apparently America has no plans either to recant its declaration of independence and to come under the gentle yoke of the English monarchy any time soon! Most American churches are probably not too keen on having Prince Charles installed as the “Supreme Governor” of their respective denominations (and I confess that I share the revulsion too). In a curious anecdote, R.C. Sproul observes:

Sometimes it is difficult for people in the United States to grasp the full significance of the title Lord. An Englishman came to this country in the decade of the sixties, and upon arrival spent his first week in Philadelphia becoming acquainted with historic landmarks, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. In order to familiarize himself with American culture, he visited several antique stores that specialized in colonial and revolutionary memorabilia. In one such shop he saw several posters and signboards that contained the slogans of the revolution, such as No Taxation Without Representation, and Don’t Tread on Me. One signboard attracted his attention more than the rest. In bold letters the sign proclaimed: we serve no sovereign here. As he mused on this sign, he wondered how people steeped in such an antimonarchical culture could come to grips with the notion of the kingdom of God and the sovereignty that belongs to the Lord. The concept of lordship invested in one individual is repugnant to the American tradition, yet this is the boldness of the claim of the New Testament for Jesus, that absolute sovereign authority and imperial power are vested in Christ.

I understand the patriotic dislike of foreign lords who might potentially attack and then tax Americans. Yet such an aversion to a “lord” might be taken too far in some contexts. Strange parts of American evangelicalism –the so-called “no lordship” advocates – have even contended that one should not even preach Jesus as Lord in evangelism, but only as Saviour. Apparently making Jesus lord of one’s life is something that is not meant to happen until much later in one’s Christian walk. Such a view, quite frankly, merits the mother of all theological face palms. Profession of Jesus as Lord is not asking for assent to the fact of his deity, but calling people to faithfulness, obedience, and allegiance towards him. Jesus wants followers not fans!

If I may gently plead with my American friends, given your aversion to “Kings” and “Lords,” before you throw all the christological tea over the theological boat, reflect on the words of Paul, who said: “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Eph 6:24). To love Jesus as Lord is to love Jesus’ lordship. We do that knowing that Jesus is neither a tyrant nor a despot. While Jesus is Lord of all, he is also Lord for all. The goodness, kindness, love, and compassion of Jesus as our Saviour is also reflected in Jesus as our Lord. If we were to make a Christian psalm book, the most common refrain should be, “The Lord Jesus is good, his love endures forever” (see Pss 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1)!

What we should take away is that in the unfolding story of the New Testament, the pre-incarnate Son who divested himself of divine glory in his incarnation is now fully invested by the Father with divine authority over every realm and every creature. What the Lord God of Israel does in creation and redemption is now, in some way, done through the lordship of Jesus Christ. When Jesus is named as “Lord” it is usually in the context of affirming that he carries the mantle of the Father’s authority and that he is the Father’s agent for rescuing Israel and putting the world to rights. Confession of Jesus as Lord was not a matter of mere assent or academic affirmation. It was a life and death issue. It meant standing up to the Caesar’s of the world who usurped for themselves the praise and power that rightly belonged to God. As Christians today, our highest vocation is to live our lives under the aegis of Jesus’ lordship and to make it clear to all that “this Jesus,” whom men and women reject, is Lord of all. What is more, the Lord Jesus will bring justice to our sin cursed earth and then flood the world with the shalom of heaven.

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