Counter-Revolutionary: “Jesus Christ is Lord”

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The Lordship of Christ ‒ For Ignatians as for the First Christians, as for the Saints

Like the first followers of the Savior, we aim to proclaim: “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6)

Christ’s title of Lord was shown to be true by His life, teachings, miracles, and the millennia of prophecies surrounding Him.

It was a title He accepted with the calmness of sovereign majesty: “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.” (John 13:13)

By  his life and resurrection it was clear that “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

With this truth and with its inspiring courage the first Christians converted the Roman Empire. They left no doubt in the minds of their hearers about Christ’s uniqueness and importance. 

Clear was the message: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Blunt were the words: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

To all those entering the ranks of the Church, they proclaimed: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17)

They faced the fact that opposition to Christ would be a matter-of-fact reality and yet, ultimately, the outcome was already decided: “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)

In an era resembling that of the first century A.D.,  when Christ’s disciples spread the Lordship of Christ amid a collapsing civilization and often frenzied opposition, Ignatians will strive to imitate their zeal and courage as they propose this vital truth to a civilization whose ideology has its roots in the French Revolution of 1989 and the cultural revolution of 1968. Hence, it is the counter-revolutionary truth par excellence.

The first Christians’ valor was bolstered by their memories of the appearances of the Risen Lord in Jerusalem and by the Sea of Galilee when, upon recognizing Him, they had cried out “It is the Lord” (John 21:7). Our valor will be fired by His mystic, real, sacramental presence in the Holy Sacrifice and in the Blessed Sacrament.

As Counter-Revolutionary as opposing Caesar or Hitler

“The lordship of Jesus Christ was not merely a doctrinal formula, but something that pervaded the witness, work, and worship of the early church.

Have a brief glance through the Book of Acts and you’ll notice as clear as day that baptism, thanksgiving, prayers, hymns, praise, and celebratory meals all take place in the context of devotion to the Jesus Christ as the Lord. In the early church, the word and example of the Lord Jesus carry pre-eminent authority (1 Thess 4:15; 1 Cor 7:10; 11:1; 1 Pet 2:21).

The preaching of the gospel was the proclamation of Jesus as Lord (see Acts 2:36; 5:14; 8:16; 9:5 10:36; 28:31; 2 Cor 4:5; 2 Thess 1:8). Knowing God meant knowing the lordship of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:17; 2 Thess 1:8).

In fact, the most basic definition of what it means to be a Christian is one who confesses Jesus as Lord, because it is by such a confession that one is saved (Rom 10:9-10), and such a confession can only me made with the help of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3).

On a more chilling note, Paul declares that if anyone does not love the Lord, then he or she is cursed (1 Cor 16:22).

Evidently loving the Lord Jesus is identical to the type of covenant loyalty that was expected of Israelites in the love for YHWH (see Deut 6:4; 10:12-13).3

We should also add there is a very sharp and subversive claim implied with the profession that Jesus is Lord.

In the Roman world of the first century, Caesar was venerated as “Lord” over the realms he ruled, not just politically, but religiously too. Worship of the emperor all over the empire, while localized in form and varied in intensity, was aimed at ensuring the devotion of his subjects.

In ancient media like coins, pottery, and poetry one can find celebration of the emperor as both a “god” and a mediator before the “gods.” In some inscriptions one reads statements such as, “Emperor [Augustus] Caesar, god and lord” and “Nero, the lord of the whole world.” Picture what it would be like to confess that Jesus is Lord in such a context.

Visualize yourself standing on a street in downtown Rome announcing that a Jewish man put to death by a Roman governor had been installed as King of kings and Lord of lords! To some it might sound disgusting, while to others it would mark you as a political dissident or simply a lunatic. N.T. Wright rightly observes: “To come to Rome with the gospel of Jesus, to announce someone else’s accession to the world’s throne, therefore, was to put on a red coat and walk into a field with a potentially angry bull.”4

The best analogy I can provide is this: imagine you are in an extravagant hotel in Berlin during the 1930s for a dinner party attended by a mix of lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and military officers.

While the evening is mostly polite and cordial, with small talk on everything from the stock market to the latest operas, a military officer suddenly taps his glass and proposes a toast to the Führer, Adolf Hitler.

Then, as everyone stands, and raises their glasses, you, being the committed Christian you are, interrupt and propose an alternative toast. Everyone is startled and looks at you as you proudly utter in your best German, “Jesus der Jude aus Nazaret ist der wahre Führer” (Jesus the Jew from Nazareth is the true Leader). You probably won’t have long before the Gestapo comes and takes you away to a very nasty place for making such a subversive claim.

Less I seem to be overstating the political dimensions of Jesus’ lordship, keep in mind that Nero did not have Christians thrown to the lions because they said, “Jesus is Lord of my heart.”

The Romans were not interested in the internal dispositions of people’s lives. Confession of Jesus as Lord was always a scandalous and subversive claim. Profession of a “lord” is not merely religious language for adoration on some spiritual plane; it is also a matter of social and political protest.

When it came to who was running the show, the Christians knew that there were only two options: the Son of Augustus or the Son of David. By singing and preaching about Jesus as Lord, they were opting for the later, a claim regarded by political authorities as seditious. As N.T. Wright suggests: “At every point, therefore, we should expect what we in fact find: that for Paul, Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.”5

It is worthwhile to think about what proclaiming Jesus as Lord means for us today. 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 a travesty because acclamation of Jesus as Lord is no empty confession or 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.”6 

I concur with Kennedy because when we discover what it means to live with respect to the lordship of Jesus, then we can get closer to the pattern of devotion that the New Testament calls us to emulate.

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.

And he has every right to do so, being as he the firstborn of all creation, and the cosmos is both his handiwork and his inheritance!

Consequently Abraham Kuyper was right to declare 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!’”7 

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.”

(Excerpt of the article by Professor Michael F. Bird, “Kyrios Christos: The Lordship of Jesus Christ Today”,at http://www.harvardichthus.org/2015/06/kyrios-christos-the-lordship-of-jesus-christ-today/ )