Friday, July 2, 2010

Lord of All

Historically, Christians have often gotten in trouble for being lawbreakers. I'm not referring to those who proclaimed faith in Christ and then embezzled money or ran off with someone else's spouse. I'm talking about those who violated the laws of their nation by proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not.

The earliest Christians were persecuted based on allegations that they were cannibalistic (consuming body and blood of Christ), incestuous (evidenced by calling one another "brother" or "sister"), and subversive (proclaiming that there could possibly be another Lord of the world besides Caesar). That last crime of subversion was the only allegation that was true.

Christians who loved and cherished their countries have sometimes had to violate the laws of those nations. Free African-American Christians in the late 1700's in the US violated US law by rescuing newly-arriving slaves in Savanah, Georgia, and helping them escape to the North. Although their church (The First African Baptist Church--the oldest church of its type in the US, and built to hide rescued slaves in hidden underground rooms) was raided a number of times, the crimes were never revealed until many years after slavery became illegal. Had they been caught in their rescue attempt, they would have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We see more recent examples in how Christians reached out to rescue Jews from the claws of Hitler and his demonic Nazi regime. Those who were caught violating the law against aiding and abetting Jews were arrested and imprisoned and/or executed (think of Corrie Ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as examples).

While these acts would be seen by the respective nations as illegal, the Christians committing those acts would have seen them as obedience to the true Lord of all. The present realities of the Kingdom of God demand an obedience that puts all other lords in their rightful places. It's a hard road for Christians to travel, but they've been traveling that road for a long time now. It's not only hard because of the consequences of that proclamation, but it's also hard because we can attempt to validate our own acts of lawlessness in the name of Jesus.

In the US, I could stand on the street corner all day and yell "Jesus is Lord!" and no one would really care as long as I didn't obstruct traffic or keep people from shopping. It's not illegal to do that here (thankfully). But the proclamation itself is a reminder to me that national leaders, governments, nation/states, and so on, are not Lord. Only Jesus is Lord. With a national US holiday coming up, it's important to remember that.

Does proclaiming Jesus as Lord mean that one is anti-country? I hope not, because a country is more than land surrounded by borders; it is a body of people, made in the image of God. However, if I proclaim that Caesar is Lord (identifying my own personal Caesar as a favored political leader or party), then I may run the risk of being anti-Jesus. Proclaiming Jesus as Lord, however, requires me to look past all the boundaries and walls and political values that separate human beings from one another, and recognize that God's love, made evident to us in the real, historic person of Jesus and continuously poured out by his Spirit, is for the world.

I believe that loving Jesus and serving him as Lord allows people to love their respective countries without worshipping them. The call to Abram in Genesis 12, that through his descendants all the families of the earth would be blessed, is lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit when we proclaim that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.

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