Ordination Questions, Part 3:
Please see the introduction to Part 1 for the context of these questions…
d) How do you interpret the statement Jesus Christ is Lord?
“Lord” means master-teacher or rabbi – one who tells followers what to do and how to live. The most revolutionary thing that a follower of Jesus could utter in the first century was, “Jesus is Lord” because it was a defiance against the empire.
In the Roman Empire, people often would pledge allegiance to the state by saying, “Caser is Lord.” It was required in a way not unlike “Heil Hitler” was required in 1930’s and early 1940’s in Nazi Germany.
To call Jesus “Lord” was to say that there is a power in Jesus more important than the power of the King of the greatest state in history. It was a way of recognizing the authority in our lives of a powerless Jewish Rabbi with scarred feet over the power of Caser himself with all his swords, spears, chariots, and crosses. It was a way of recognizing a whole different way of life where might does not make right, where the marginalized are empowered, where to lead means to serve, and where success and failure are measured in how much we love each other.
The opposite of declaring Jesus as “Lord” is to study or admire him from a distance and allow him to become our mascot. He has some interesting ideas and we like to talk about him, theorize about him, but do not interact with him and the essence of who he is, nor do we bother to do what he says. Jesus lamented those in his day: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
People frequently cheer for Jesus and admire him from a distance and are glad that they are on his team but do not understand the essence of him. He makes a great mascot but they are not serious about him being “Lord.” This allows them to think that the whole of Jesus’ message was simply “spiritual” – about getting souls into heaven after they die – and has nothing to do with the “real world” that we live in. To paraphrase Shane Claiborne, they worship a refugee on Sunday, but ignore one on Monday. They are thrilled to have Jesus save them from hell but have very little interest in his saving them from greed, gossip, prejudice, violence, isolation, carelessness about the poor or the planet, hatred, envy, anger or pride. In recent days, this dichotomy allows people to pledge allegiance to and elect a modern Caesar who embodies all that Jesus stood against while still sentimentally admiring the mascot Jesus and not feeling any cognitive dissonance.
Therefore, to call Jesus “Lord” in our day, like the First Century Christians, is to say that there is a power in Jesus more important than the power of the greatest military in human history. It is a way of recognizing a whole different way of life where might does not make right, where the marginalized are empowered, where to lead means to serve, and where success and failure are measured in how much we love each other.