Why Do You Call Him Lord?

This morning I awoke without the usual midweek pressure of needing to get up and get ready for work. Remembering that I had the day off, I was able to relax and sink into my prayers with a more leisurely attitude. I thought, "I should ask the Lord what to do with this rare, unstructured day," or words to that effect.  And so I began, "Lord, how would You have me use this day?"

The first word of my prayer echoed in my head. "Lord....lord".  What an odd word.  In this "land of the free and home of the brave" there are no lords.  We are a nation born of rebellion - spawned by the rejection of outside authority.  We, The People, have the authority.  We are created equal, and so doff our hats to no man. Do we even know what we are saying when we address Christ as "Lord"?  What do I mean?

This is a challenging thought and one which Christ Himself implores me to consider: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?" His implication is clear - if I call Him "Lord" and yet do not obey His words I am a hypocrite, fooling myself that I am actually His disciple. In the parable that follows He paints the picture of a man building his house on a foundation of sand, a house doomed to destruction. The apostle James echoes the words of Christ:
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." James 1:22-25
So often, I've read the words of Christ as good suggestions.  I've chosen the ones that suit me and left others aside for possible review at a more convenient time, or worse, I've listened and enjoyed them all then closed my Bible and gone about my day in the usual way - unchanged - thinking to myself that the act of reading the Scripture will bring about my transformation - as if by magic.  But this is not what Jesus taught.  
"Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built." Luke 6:47-48 (emphasis mine)
As the old Sunday school song taught us, "The wise man builds his house upon the rock!"  The wise man understands authority, and, believing the Scriptures which proclaim Christ to be "Lord of lords", pays close attention and does what He tells him to do. Certainly Christ is the "rock of our salvation", the foundation of our faith, but the only way to build a life on that rock is through a faith so alert, that it seeks to obey His every word. This is the foundation of the Christian life.  

No other foundation will support it.
"And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." 1 John 2: 3-6
It does not matter how loudly we proclaim our faith, how much we know about the Bible, or how high and fine our doctrinal statements are if we are not doing the words of Christ and His apostles.  It matters little how much we know about Jesus and His teachings, or how much time we spend reading the Scriptures if we are not living as they tell us to.  I've heard it said that the devil doesn't mind what we do so long as He can keep us from the Scriptures.  I agree, to a point, but want to take it a step farther: the devil doesn't mind us hearing the word of God nearly so much as he does us obeying it.  

Americanism says that we are the masters of our own destiny. We can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, stand on our own feet, and accomplish whatever we dream. We, for the most part, so long as we are not caught breaking any laws (laws, by the way, which we play a role in enacting or repealing), answer to no one.  We have rights on which no one has the right to tread. We have employers (hopefully), but no masters. We have advisers, but no commanders. Our lives are rich with options, opportunities, and every freedom necessary to pursue them. Beyond death and taxes, we have few mandates...and we resent even those.  By and large we are free to say and do as we please, answering to no one.

I was born an American.  I was re-born a Christian, a citizen of an entirely different kind of country, with an entirely different form of government.  The words of Christ call on me constantly to decide between Americanism and Christianity - between independence and submission to the authority of Christ. I am not the supreme authority in my life; I have a Lord to whom I am accountable. If this Christian life of mine is not built on obedience to His authority, it is no better than a house of cards.

2011 has, for me, turned into a year spent inspecting my foundation and rebuilding my spiritual house, of learning what it means to have a Lord -someone whose will is my command, whose words are not empty, who I am accountable to for all I think and do. It has been a time of making His priorities mine, and His kingdom my own. I suppose I could call it The Year of Taking Christ Seriously. May God grant that this New Year, and every year to follow be even more worthy of that title.
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." Mt. 7:24-27


It's always been a great stumbling-block for myself this word 'Lord' with its strong resonance of ancient, oppressive feudalism. We even have a full House of Lords in GB in government. Wish that there were less hierarchical,servile, class-associated words to name and address the Prince of Peace.
Laurie M. said…
I, too, naturally bristle, and always have, at authority (particularly when it's being lorded over me). That is one of the challenges for me in following Christ, learning to accept the kind of language he uses as he speaks of himself. His apostles in their writings continue these same references to Christ as Lord, even though they were subject to the abuses of the authority of Rome. They even exhort us to submit to secular authority (more bristling), stating that all authority is given by God. I think there is great comfort to be taken from knowing that no matter the wickedness/corruption of an authority, there is an Ultimate authority to whom all will give account.

It is also very helpful to keep in mind the kind of authority Christ instituted for His church - leadership through servanthood and mutual submission. In Christ the playing field is level - there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. We are all one in Him.
Betsy Markman said…
I have often wondered how being an American has colored my understanding of lordship. Is it good that I've never really dealt with a system that makes me an official "inferior?"

Human systems that have superiors and inferiors can teach a person to accept "her place," but can also teach that "superiors" are abusive. Is it better to have flawed human examples of lordship than no examples at all?

Jesus is not just Lord, He's the perfect Lord...humble, kind, giving...and yet for all that, absolutely sovereign and will not give His glory to another. We can't fathom Him, with or without human feudalism muddying the waters.

I hate submitting...and yet I deeply admire those who do it well. I suppose I'd be the same way even if I'd grown up in feudal times.

Forgive my rambling. So much to reflect on in your post.
Laurie M. said…
Rambling is certainly permitted, Betsy. I've rambled all over the place on this subject in my own head, and in my ramblings I keep running into to the response of Christ in Mt. 8 to the Roman centurian who sought healing for his suffering servant: "he [Christ]marveled and said to those who followed him, 'Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith....'"

This man's commendable faith, the story tells us, was a result of his deep, experiential, understanding of how authority works. Authority commands and those commands are obeyed (period). Though he was under the authority of Rome - no godly empire - that basic understanding of the function of authority gave him a fundamental basis by which to believe Christ - a working belief in a working authority whose commands will be obeyed.

That translates to us civilians, I think, as understanding Christ as one whose words can be trusted because he has all the authority/power to carry them out. For this reason we are to take his words seriously and not toy with them. So, when He tells me to forgive or I will not be forgiven, for instance, I need to expend all the energy He's given me toward forgiving. Or, when he promises to care for me and all my needs if I seek Him and His kingdom first, I can believe him and let anxiety go.

His authority is the basis for believing Him and all his promises, and this belief is also the basis on which we are able to do as He says.

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