A Cliché with a Meaning
I woke Wednesday morning to the sound of my alarm like any other day. Despite living on the West Coast, I couldn’t possibly stay up to hear the final election results. When you have a one year old, you are on their time and not your own. That morning my wife immediately reached for her phone, checked the results, and turned to me. The way she decided to deliver me the news and greet me for the day was in four simple words, Jesus is still Lord. That is about all she had to say. I later decided that I would do my best not to check social media for a couple of hours and I also wouldn’t mind my wife greeting me each morning with those words no matter what news developed over the night.
There has been a lot of panicking, a lot of fear and nervousness, and some people who are legitimately uncertain about their future. There are some who believe the outcome of the election means very little for them, and still others who see this as the beginning of a new movement. Many still have no idea how to react. There are many who have decided that the best way for a Christian to respond to the election, the election process, and the campaigning is with the same phrase - Jesus is still Lord. After seeing the phrase enough times so far, or some variant thereof, my initial reaction was to consider it a cliché for comfort.
Yet, these four words are not just a cliché, but rather a true confession, and it's unfortunate that such words are used only in times of uncertainty. This confession is fitting for today and any day for that matter.
The question that needs to be unpacked is the true meaning of the phrase and what it means for us as we look to the civil transfer of power in our nation. What does this mean especially to those who claim not just that Jesus is Lord but the very Lord they are baptized into and bear his name? There are certainly many asking this question as they look at the behavior and decisions made in this election season by many who claim to have Jesus as their own.
The phrase Jesus is still Lord applies no matter who wins any election. As our nation looks to what comes next, this confession holds two meanings that help us navigate the following days.
Jesus Brings Salvation
There is the plain and the simple first part of its meaning. Not so simple to someone outside of the faith, but foundational to any person in Jesus. To say Jesus is Lord is to declare that no one or nothing else is lord. If Jesus is still Lord, he is still the one who supplies salvation. This is true across the board for everyone. Where do we go to find salvation? Jesus (Rev 7:10). Where do we go to find our foundation? Jesus (Matthew 7:24). Where do we go to learn the truth about who we are? Jesus (1 John 3:1). To declare Jesus is Lord is to declare we can find our hope placed nowhere else.
If this is true, one of the hardest temptations to fight in a political season is the temptation to revoke salvation from others. The first thing we like to do when we disagree in the church is to rate and relegate those on the other side of the aisle. For some reason when it comes to election decisions we seem to suddenly believe we can see clearly how wrong and anti-Christian the other side’s policies are without a clear examination of our own. The result of such behavior is a quick declaration of division and separation in the Body of Christ. A swift revocation of salvation credentials. Even if your response is the simple question of ‘how could you’, there is an underlying question of the other person’s placement of faith.
But Jesus is Lord. Salvation belongs to Him. It is for him to dispense and for him to revoke. In our fervor for political and worldly piety it is easy to find ourselves taking his place. Our worldly fervor cannot overtake or replace the truth of Jesus being Lord. Falling into this temptation is a break from the commandments, a fallacy perpetuated by being unaware of one’s self, and to follow the road of the Church in Sardis (Revelations 3:1-6). The Christians in Sardis are called out for having followed a way that may look Christian and pietistic on the outside, but on the inside they were dead. The Lord’s instruction to them is this, “Remember then, what you received and heard. Keep it and repent.” Jesus is still Lord. Call to mind, when tempted, the words of the Great Multitude heard later in Revelation (7:10), “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Following worldly and political piety can set a person on the same path as Sardis leading to a need for repentance.
Jesus Brings the Kingdom
The second meaning brings to us the kingdom of God. As we come into the time of the Church Year where the warnings of the current times are prevalent, Luke 17:20-23 comes to mind. Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say ‘look, here it is! or ‘there!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” To have the kingdom in the midst of the people of God and the people of God being the kingdom is to be the light and salt Jesus commands, to be the image of the 144,000 marching forward. It is to imitate the words of Paul when he says in 1 Corinthians 9, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”
The kingdom that is declared in the phrase ‘Jesus is still Lord’ cannot be taken away by anyone other than the one who has established it. The two meanings of the phrase are identical in this way. No matter the situation around us, the declaration states Jesus and what he has established is unshakable. It is a kingdom that will know no end and no boundary, which means there is no reason to lose step moving forward.
The people of God who declare Jesus is still Lord, have every reason to hear that phrase as a call to keep going and to move beyond its initial use as just a comforting assertion. The modern call of the phrase is to proclaim the Gospel and exercise the reversal truth of the kingdom in this world. The call for the people of God in Jesus’ lordship is to continue to seek out the low and the poor, to find refuge for the sojourners and refugees, comfort for the sick and the confused, to fight for the life of the unborn and the born. It is a call not to hide from the decisions of the world but to be the truth in the dark, no matter the situation. Jesus is still Lord.
Rev. Brad Malone - Lamb of God Lutheran Church - Seattle, WA