Chapter 3: Jesus
We believe in God.
This conviction puts us on a different trajectory from atheists, those who do not believe in God, but there is nothing uniquely Christian about claiming belief in God. From Primal Credo, chapter 3:
The overwhelming majority of people alive today believe in God. We do see a growing, grassroots revival of atheism spreading throughout Europe and North America. However, these new atheists remain in the minority of the world’s population. It seems many who claim to be atheists are not true philosophical atheists; rather they are angry theists. They do not deny the existence of God as much as they are angry with a misconstrued view of God. Nevertheless to confess belief in God, or anger towards God as in the case of so many self-proclaimed atheists, is not enough to give full expression to the Christian faith. We uniquely believe in Jesus, who we call “the Christ.”
Christ is a title meaning “anointed one or King,” specifically the Jewish king called “Messiah.” Christ Jesus is King Jesus.
We uncover the mystery of Jesus Christ when we consider the truth that he is both God and a man. Jesus is really God and a real human being, at the same time. We worship him as God and we follow him as the earthly King. We follow him and we give our allegiance to him and his kingdom, the kingdom of God. To confess “Jesus is Lord” is to acknowledge he is the “landlord” of the planet. He is in charge. He is running the show. To pledge our allegiance to King Jesus is to undermine the authority of every human government of the earth. We may be the citizen of a certain political nation, but our deepest loyalties lie with Jesus. The confession “Jesus is Lord” got the early Christian in trouble with the Roman Empire not because it was a religious claim, but it was a political claim. Again, from chapter 3:
Citizens living in the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus and the early church began to worship and honor the various Caesars, the Roman Emperors, as god-like men. The people gave whichever Caesar was in power titles like “Lord” and “Savior of the World.” They even called Caesar divi filius in Latin, meaning “Son of God.” The titles early Christians used for Jesus were originally given to Caesar. First-century Christians living in the shadow of Roman dominance deeply subverted the authority of the Caesar when they called Jesus “Lord” and “Son of God.” Caesar wanted all honor and authority in his empire; honoring another king above him carried the potential sentence of death. Christians who saluted Jesus as King implied that Caesar was no longer running the show. This subversive confession of our creed—I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord—put Christians at odds with the mighty Caesar. Jesus and Caesar could not both be King, Lord, Savior, and Son of God. Emperors do not conquer the world by sharing the throne. Caesar would be dethroned if indeed Jesus was Lord.
Many followers of Jesus found themselves the targets of Rome’s rage in the first few centuries of church history, not because they believed Jesus was Lord of heaven, but because they proclaimed him to be the Lord of heaven and earth. The political implications of their confession caught the attention of the empire. As Roman officials grew irritated with these small bands of Jesus-worshippers, they responded with violence. Many Christians died because they made this simple, bold, subversive claim: Caesar was not Lord; Jesus was. We call those who died for their faith in Jesus “martyrs,” which comes from the Greek word martus, meaning “public witness.”
For those of us who are followers of Jesus living in the United States, confessing “Jesus is Lord” means we do not give ultimate honor to our national Caesars. We do ultimately pledge our allegiance to governmental officials at any level of public office, regardless of their political affiliation. We do not put our hope in one political ideology, because our hope is not in a political party; our hope is in the King. We do not follow the donkey, or the elephant; we follow the Lamb.
When we boldly declare, and live in light of the truth, that Jesus is Lord, Christ, and King, we separate our Christian identity from our national identity.