Do you call Jesus Christ your Lord? If so—why? We have no more lords these days, so its significance tends to be lost and as a culture we have difficulty comprehending what this particular kind of relationship involves—yet it is important. So, what exactly is a lord? What are his responsibilities? His rights? What about those who are attached to a lord—what are their duties? And do they benefit in any way from their position?
“Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 CEB)
Most of us reading this will acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord, but how many of us understand the full implications? “Boss” or “master,” come close in meaning, but our understanding of the concept these days is inherently limited because we no longer have that kind of societal structure. Yet the word remains in our vocabulary.
In the U.K. they have a House of Lords and House of Commons, much as we have a Senate and House of Representatives. When someone is being too bossy, we may say they are trying to “lord it over” us. Or we may hear the phrase “lords and ladies” in a movie or older book, conjuring up images of elegant men and women from a bygone era. Yet all of these current usages fail to convey the full significance of the meaning of the word “lord,” and the simple truth is we no longer get it. Yet years ago, there was the privileged class, and those dependent on them.
Granted, we still have the 1% (or whatever percentage of the population is uber-wealthy), but because of the protections of the Constitution and our legal structure, even the poorest of us are endowed with certain basic human rights and are for the most part, no longer as directly dependent on one specific human lord. This was not always so.
As relatively recently historically as feudal England, there were lords and vassals—and each owed the other something. According to Britannica:
“Under the feudal contract, the lord had the duty to provide the fief [property] for his vassal, to protect him, and to do him justice in his court. In return, the lord had the right to demand the services attached to the fief (military, judicial, administrative) and a right to various “incomes” known as feudal incidents.”
Furthermore, “The vassal owed fealty to his lord. A breach of this duty was a felony, regarded as so heinous an offense that…all serious crimes, even those that had nothing to do with feudalism proper, came to be called felonies…” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/vassal)
The ancient Asian world had a similar concept. Common people needed a strong protector and he was to provide what they needed, but they owed him loyalty in return. According to Confucius Lives Next Door by T.R. Reed:
“…Confucian loyalties run both up and down. The subject has an obligation to the ruler, but the ruler has equally strong obligations to the subject. The underling must be respectful and obedient, but the superior has a duty of benevolence. He is required to protect and educate his subjects, to provide the conditions they need for a safe and prosperous life.”
So how does this apply to our relationship with Jesus? Well, it gives us more insight of what God means when He identifies Himself as our Lord. It really isn’t as simple as accepting a gift, even the most precious one of Christ Himself—we are called not only to the privileges of forgiveness, acceptance, and salvation that come with belonging to Him, but also the responsibilities of our new status as His people.
Jesus Himself teaches us to “count the cost” of entering into a relationship with Him, yet its not something we hear much of these days. We do hear a lot about how belonging to Jesus benefits us—which certainly is without a doubt absolutely amazing—but we’re not often told what He’s going to require of us:
“If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” (Luke 14:26-33 NLT)
No, Jesus was the first to tell us entering into a relationship with Him will cost us, going so far as to even tell two short parables about it:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46 CEB)
Did you catch it? He “sold all that he owned” to buy it. That part is so uncomfortable to us that most of us simply gloss over it when we read. But we shouldn’t.
I recently saw what appeared to be a very old photograph of, according to the headline of the article, Christian women crucified for their faith—I will probably never forget it. I have no idea if it was doctored or if it’s fake news, but the fact remains that many followers of Christ have truly been required by their Lord to give an ultimate testimony to Him, and they have. They were faithful “even unto death.” As spoiled and focused on my comfort and personal well-being as I am, I think to myself—if called upon, would I do the same? Would I deny Christ and rationalize it that I can’t do differently? Or would I obey, even if I have to give Him everything?
It is possible to understand—at least to some degree—who God really is, yet walk away. Remember the rich young ruler who went away sad because he chose to not part with his wealth? Recognizing who Jesus is isn’t enough—denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him is what’s needed, and it will certainly cost us.
God’s gift of forgiveness is free through Christ, but we are called to walk in His steps and follow Him because lordship is a relationship, a lifestyle, with both privileges and obligations. Biblically, repentance precedes forgiveness, and true repentance submits to Christ’s lordship over us. He accepts us into His kingdom, but we must follow where ever He leads, and I fear many of us today in the West may not be prepared for such an outcome. We really must count the cost.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me recognize everything following You involves, and mean it from the bottom of my heart when I confess You as my Lord. Give me the grace to be faithful! Amen.