"Jesus is Lord."
It's not uncommon to see these words regularly throughout our day. Printed on a bumper sticker. Worn on a T-shirt. Even spray-painted on the side of an overpass. While proclaiming Jesus' reign is never a bad thing, the danger in such overuse is that it can become cliché. A cute slogan. About as connected to God as a polite response when someone sneezes.
To the first-century Christians, however, "Jesus is Lord" meant something far more. With Caesar as the obvious ruler of the entire known world, it was not only commonplace, but expected that when someone was greeted publically, he was supposed to say, "Caesar is Lord," and to say it like he meant it. It was sort of the "Heil Hitler" of the day.
So when the early Christians chose to say, "Jesus is Lord" as their declaration, they were literally choosing to align everything with Jesus, even their own lives. Their words were not trite statements. They were downright treasonous. They echoed a subversive rebellion against the establishment that clearly resonated their allegiances and alliances. Those three words changed everything.
And shouldn't the same be true for today? If we sing it in church, wear it on a bracelet, and put it on our cars, then we need to really live out what it is saying. While the words may cost less in many settings, they shouldn't mean anything less to those saying them.
Today we live in a world ruled by consumerism. The world lives with its obvious loyalties to power, religion, greed, sex, and other idols in clear rebellion to God. But for those making this declaration, none of these is our lord. Not anymore. Jesus is Lord. We are rebelling against their rebellion.
If we are to take a similar subversive mindset as the early Christians, choosing to live out the Gospel in the world, showing people an irresistible Kingdom ruled by an irresistible King, we have to ask ourselves the question: how is this supposed to change the way that we live? Here are a few practical reminders.
We need to deconstruct a false view of God's Kingdom. Many churches today have made the kingdom into the kingdom of religion rather than the kingdom of God. As such, we are producing passive spectators rather than active participants in the kingdom mission. No more! King Jesus calls us to subversively stand and fight.
Secondly, we can live as ambassadors of the kingdom in small, subversive ways. I have the opportunity to work in the research division of one of the largest providers of Christian resources in the country.
Actually, the way we make our biggest difference is by thinking small. We help pockets and handfuls of Christian groups all over to live on a kingdom mission. I may largely spend my days doing research, writing, and speaking across the country, but I think the closest thing that I do for a kingdom effort is what I do on Sunday night: leading a small group in my neighborhood. The world may see a ten-story building as the best representation of the kingdom in my life, but they would be wrong. The kingdom is more real in my living room than in my office.
As Christians, we need to ask ourselves, "How can we do kingdom work right here and now?" We establish embassies of sorts, representing God in an alien land. The most significant work that we do will not be in huge, stadium-filled ways, but in small, primarily unnoticed ways. Simple. Sincere. Subversive.
Thirdly, we accomplish this by living in a manner directed by and empowered by our King. We are meant to be noticeable not just by the way we talk or the things we oppose, but rather by the high standards with which we operate. Our lives should be radically different, yet we cannot accomplish this on our own strength. We need the Holy Spirit to work in us and draw people's attention toward the Son.
Lastly, as the Spirit accomplishes this, we need to show and share the love of Christ. Sometimes we say that sharing Christ and serving the community in the name of Christ are two sides of the same coin, but this is a poor metaphor. God's mission is not two things. It is one thing; some parts of that mission are given to the church gathered and some are given to the church scattered. Regardless, we are called to live for Jesus' Kingdom mission.
God has already inaugurated His victory in our world, but it is not yet consummated. While we wait for His completion, we join Him in destroying the devil's works and establishing more and more outposts of His Kingdom. "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" (Luke 12:32, KJV). He has. He will. And its subversive nature changes you, those around you, and ultimately the world.