When the gospel is stripped to its core, we come across the most important confession that is to root the people of God in a hostile political environment. What’s the confession?
Jesus Christ is Lord.
Learning from the Confessing Church
It was this confession that rooted the Confessing Church in Germany during World War II as many were being co-opted by Hitler’s National Church. In the Barmen Declaration, mostly written by Karl Barth, we read of the preeminence of Jesus as the true Lord and Word of God in a spiritually confusing and politically divisive atmosphere.
Nearly 100 years later, the Church (particularly the Church in the United States) is faced with the same, precarious situation. This polarization of politics and the fear that has resulted has marginalized this historic confession of Jesus as Lord. Consequently, many in the church have approached politics in ways that mirror the hostility of the world. What this has revealed is the sobering reality that although we confess Jesus is Lord, our lives tell a different story.
What does it mean to truly confess Jesus is Lord in the age of Trump and Hillary? How is this confession to shape our lives? If I were to interview Christians across this nation asking if they believed Jesus Christ is Lord, everyone would enthusiastically agree. Yet, somehow this confession has not penetrated our hearts, our ethics and our public witness. The urgent question of our time is “How do we align this confession with our witness? What does it mean to truly confess Jesus is Lord in the age of Trump and Hillary? Click To Tweet
A Diagnostic for Determining Your Lord
To that end, I’ve created a short list of questions to serve as a diagnostic tool. These questions will help us determine if we truly believe Jesus is Lord, not just as a theological assertion, but as a confession that is deeply formative. In the end, it is possible to pass a theological test, but fail at following Jesus. This list of questions is to help us not make that mistake.
You know you truly believe Jesus is Lord when:
1) Whoever gets elected, we are not paralyzed with anxiety.
I’ve had many conversations with people who in consideration of the next president broke down in tears, fearful of what’s to come. On the one hand it’s a normal human response to feel a sense of anger, fear, uncertainty and sadness if a candidate not of your choosing gets elected. But there’s a line we cross when anxiety permeates our hearts and our communities.
When we confess Jesus is Lord, we are to be anchored in the reality that “he is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Throughout the ages, the Church has seen her share of leaders that has caused a sense of anxiety and despair. Yet, the Church still stands, ultimately because Jesus is Lord. There’s a line we cross when election anxiety permeates our hearts and our communities. Click To Tweet
2) We love and pray for those we disagree with
To confess “Jesus is Lord” is to have our character shaped by that confession. In this intense season of polarization, the church has more often looked like the world than of a sign of the coming reality when Jesus fully and finally reigns. Jesus’ Sermon the Mount is to shape our social imagination, especially as it pertains to those we disagree with. There is perhaps no greater expression of love in this political season than for the Church to model this deeply.
3) We confess our limits and blind spots
When we confess Jesus is Lord we are simultaneously declaring that we are not. This confession frees us to admit our shortcomings instead of posturing like we have it all together. This kind of personal confession usually goes overlooked in the context of political discourse. When we are in the thick of it, it’s easy to focus on the sins of the left side and the right side and pay no attention to “our inside.” However, to confess Jesus is Lord is to see our personal limitations in the same breath.
4) We don’t anoint a candidate or party as God’s candidate or party
Nothing has grieved me more than seeing pastors and leaders anoint a candidate as “God’s candidate.” At best this kind of anointing is deeply naïve. At worst, it’s a prostitution of power. Jesus is our Anointed One. The church is never to be identified with a political party. The church is to stand outside of them and with prophetic imagination speak truth to power.
NT Wright notes that in ancient times,
The emperor was the kyrios, the lord of the world, the one who claimed the allegiance and loyalty of subjects throughout his wide empire.
The New Testament confession of Jesus as Lord was not limited to the afterlife, but was to find its ground in this life. When Paul wrote “Jesus is Lord” he was using politically loaded language. In Paul’s mind it was akin to saying Caesar is not Lord!
In addition, this point is to remind us that followers of Jesus are never to be totally aligned with any party. I’d go as far as to say, if a Christian neatly fits in a political party, that Christian doesn’t neatly fit in the Kingdom of God. If a Christian neatly fits in a political party, that Christian doesn’t neatly fit in the Kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
5) The Lord’s moral concerns become our concerns
It’s easy to view Jesus through the lens of partisan politics instead of seeing politics through the lens of Jesus and his kingdom. To confess the Lordship of Jesus is to have our lives ordered by the moral imperatives of his kingdom. Christians are to take seriously the moral demands of the Sermon on the Mount as well the eschatological-ethical vision presented in Matthew 25.
Jesus is gravely concerned for justice, reconciliation and “the least of these” which in our time includes the poor, the refugee, the unborn, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant and others.
6) We spend more time listening to Jesus’ voice than the prevailing voices.
In this ubiquitous media circus, it’s all too easy to listen to the voices of everyone without cultivating a life with God in prayer. Our time spent with Jesus in prayer is to shape our witness. The gravitational pull is to immerse ourselves listening to the voices, the narratives and the polarizing rhetoric pouring out of TV stations. But to confess Jesus as Lord is to reorient our time and energy in such a way that we create space to experience loving union with God.
7) You live with a hope that makes no sense to the world!
Christians have a unique place in society in that we are to be anchored and rooted in a culture that is unstable and anxious. We are to model a non-anxious presence, living in confidence that Jesus is Lord. This is not to turn our heads to injustice, nor is it to live with a political naivety. But it does mean that we are not like the world. Whoever sits in the Oval Office doesn’t change who’s on the throne.
In an age of rampant divisiveness, anxiety and despair, let’s return to this ancient confession.
Jesus is Lord.
You can watch the entire sermon this was taken from below.