What If Jesus Is Lord?
“What if Jesus is Lord?” I’m not asking whether he is, but rather what does it mean that he is? We’re Americans. We abolished lords over 240 years ago. What does it mean to us to have a lord?
Our relationship with authority is somewhat different than what people of Jesus’ time experienced. We pledge our allegiance, pay our taxes, and rely on the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”– rights we consider inalienable to us, but which were unknown to anyone in the ancient world. We don’t even have the draft anymore. The vast majority of Americans do not serve and have not served this nation actively in any way. It’s not required. (Note: I didn’t serve in the military, either. I’m not criticizing, I’m just observing.)
But do we take the same attitude when we accept Jesus as Lord? Is it enough to praise him, give to our church, and go on our merry way?
“Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
“Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:31)
“Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)
Clearly the answer is no. Jesus actually expects us to do something. Moreover, Jesus expects us to put him first, not ourselves. Talk about un-American!
I think this is why Christianity is so difficult for us. Jesus asks us to serve him, and we don’t know what that means. Serve him a hamburger? A tennis ball? A subpoena?
People in the Roman world knew how. To serve meant to give up your freedom, do what you’re told, and die if necessary for your lord. For the privileged, there were reciprocal benefits: the lord would protect your safety and help support you. For the masses, the other 98%, it meant you could be taxed, relocated, accused, and even executed at the whim of a man (and it was always a man) in a distant city, whom you had never and would never meet.
Serving Jesus looked pretty attractive to them because it was an improvement!
To us, serving Jesus starts to sound like a lot of sacrifice.
And it is. We are some of the most privileged people in the history of the world. We don’t like to be told what to do, and we don’t like to share what we’ve accumulated.
Yet serving someone means exactly that.
Paul refers to himself as a slave of Christ (Romans 1:1), and says, “whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ” (1 Corinthians 7:22). Can we even imagine such language? I suspect we can’t. Not really. None of us have been slaves, and most of us don’t descend from slaves.
Think about what it means to be a slave: to be considered property, to have no rights whatever, not even the right to life, and to have no opportunity for self-determination. You may want to become educated, but your master may have you working on the farm instead. Or vice versa.
Moreover, you don’t get to argue with your master without risking punishment.
Can we imagine such a relationship with anyone, much less Jesus?
The good news is, what Jesus asks is usually not life threatening. And the reward, peace that passes understanding, is greater than anything our economically-blessed freedom can provide.