The slaves cheered. The prisoners rejoiced. For through the bars of their prisons, through the slits of cracked walls, they could see the army of a new King entering. The heralds spoke of this King’s benevolence. Those who were imprisoned by the old rulers, those who did not make the law, the standards of the old traditions, those ostracized by those who thrived in the old ways, they all found hope in the declaration of this new order. In this new rule, not only would they find salvation, but acceptance in the most inner places. They would not only receive pardon but privilege. Instead of punishment they would find joy. Together they cried in deep happiness, salvation has happened to us!
Yet in the high places, in the castle and the mansions around it, in the temples and academies, reigned fear. The defeated old tyrant trembled as he clung to his throne, “What is left for me to rule? What will happen to me?” he worried. The chief priest feared that his devotions were crumbling, “What will happen to our traditions? What will happen to us?” The men and women of power were shaken at their loss of control, “What will happen to us?” All those who found honor in the old kingdom were shaken by the news of this new king’s rule. They heard the stories about Him, and that brought them great fear. “What will happen to our privilege?” they wondered. “What will happen to us?”
It’s All Good News
Growing up I always thought of the idea of salvation and lordship as two parts of Christianity: the former being the good news and the latter being the not-so-good, even difficult, part of Christianity. Salvation, the idea that God has come to save us from our sins is easy to love. Who doesn’t want to be treated with mercy and made whole again? But the idea of lordship is more difficult to swallow. It brings up ideas of servitude and surrender. To make Jesus my lord means to make Him my ruler. Lordship, in my head, meant obeying His commands, which meant being a good person who didn’t sin.
This is extra difficult to practice because of the pressure of understanding that the word savior has come up only a few times in the Bible and the word “lord” more than a hundred times, which, as was explained to me, means that there is more emphasis on Jesus being lord than Him being savior, and that being so excited about being saved but not accepting His rulership was wrong.
But there were two major problems:
1. I’m so inclined to sin in big and small ways.
2. Deep down inside, I don’t find the idea of someone else calling the shots appealing at all, much less good news.
I asked myself, “Didn’t Jesus come to bring the Good News of the Gospel? Was Jesus offering a spiritual bait and switch by saying, ‘I’m going to save you…’ then saying ‘…now you have to follow everything I say.’ How can this be truly good news?”
But here’s what I’ve realized: It’s all Good News. Both Salvation and Lordship are not two parts of a deal, the good and bad part, but all part of the good news of the Gospel, because this is the Gospel:
Jesus has saved me and that His lordship (His rulership) has arrived in my situation.
It’s easy to see why being saved is good news. We are saved from our sins. Why is the arrival of Christ’s lordship good news? Because He brings a new kind of kingdom. In the time of kings, when a new king took over another kingdom, he brought with him new rules. If the new king was seen as a good king, his rulership was celebrated. In the same way God’s rulership brings a new authority, a new agenda, a new values system, and a new way of enforcing His rule.
A New Authority: God, not man.
This is good news because God is just and man is so prone to injustice, to bias, to different influences that prevent us from weighing values correctly. With God as our authority we can look forward to a fair rule and that justice will prevail in the end. When I look at the current world around me, when I look at man’s leaders I am disheartened by the corruption but when I look to Jesus I find hope that even though I am in the world, I am not of it, and that from the lens of eternity, when all that is wrong is made right, the momentary injustices we suffer will not compare to the joy we will experience under His lordship.
A New Agenda: Salvation, reconciliation, not self-justification
This is good news because we’ve already fallen and sinned. Maybe there are people who are less sinful than others but I’m not one of them. I know that on my own I cannot earn salvation. It’s good news to me that my new Master’s agenda is to save me and reconcile me to Him, unlike the world’s agenda where humanity is constantly trying to prove worth, constantly trying to prove value, in other words, to constantly having to justify life’s meaning. Under the rule of Christ, I find that His agenda is not for me to constantly have to prove significance but to enjoy the fact that I am constantly and significantly loved.
A New Values System: , faith and dependence on God, not self-sufficiency; service and personal sacrifice, not personal greatness; not the love of power but the power of love
I’ve written about this before, about how God values very different things from us, and about how we need to move away from interpreting what is godly based on human values-systems. If we continue to see self-sufficiency, security, success, comfort, safety, achievement, and power as the marks of a wise Christian, then lordship won’t make sense because many times submitting yourself to God means letting go these things. But this is good news because it makes the “good life” accessible by all. In the kingdoms of business, the more money you have the greater you are, the less money you have, the less your value. In the kingdoms of media and show business, the more famous you are, and the more willing you are to sell your soul for fame, the more valued you are, and the more unknown you are the more insignificant you feel. In the kingdoms of the religious and traditional, the more closely you live by the rules the greater your worth, the further away you are from them the more evil you are. In the kingdoms of sports, the more you win, the stronger you are, the faster you are, the more competitive you are , the greater you are. The losers are rejected. In the kingdoms of the world, the greater you make yourself to be, even at the cost of others, the higher you rise. But in God’s kingdom, He values faith, which is dependence on Him. He teaches that service and self-sacrifice is the way to greatness. He teaches not to love power but to enjoy the power of love. In kingdoms of this world there will always be pyramids of the strongest down to the weakest, depending on who can please better. In the kingdom of God, everyone can be honored by serving greatly, everyone can depend on God and please Him daily, and everyone can love and enjoy love. Under the lordship of Christ, we enjoy the ultimate level playing field. We all have the opportunity to be great in His kingdom.
Finally, a new way of enforcing the rule: Grace – God’s presence in our lives, His being in our journey, influencing, impacting, transforming our life’s journey, that we will be who He wants us to be, and that we may do what He has prepared in advance for us to do.
In the world, when you don’t do as you should, you are punished. When others aren’t punishing us we punish ourselves. We are always either too fat or too skinny, too religions or too rebellious, too wise, too foolish, too spiritual, too unspiritual, too this, too that, I can go on and on. But in God’s kingdom, the way He enforced His rule was by sending Jesus. Like the parable of the vineyard owner who sent his son to entreat with the rebellious workers, God sent Jesus. His way was not to enforce rule by punishment as He knew that none would stand. Instead He made it possible for us to journey with Him daily that we would become more like Him in the process, and so learn how to be like more and more.
A new ruler is good news to someone who is suffering under the current ruler but dreadful news for someone thriving and enjoying the current rule. This is why the poor, the sick, the broken, the sinful all ran to Jesus and rejoiced while many of the established felt threatened. The gospel is not good news for those who have managed to thrive in the values-system of the world, for those who know how to succeed with pride, with greed, with selfishness, with self-centeredness, who see more wisdom in security and tradition than love and self-sacrifice.