By Steven Norris
“Dear Lord…Thank you, Lord…Praise the Lord…Lord, have mercy.” To refer to the Divine as “Lord” is a rather common part of the prayer vocabulary for people of faith. What does it mean, however, to call Jesus, Lord?
This Sunday marks a climactic resolution (and final destination) for the church calendar. While many of us may only recognize it as the third Sunday in November and others as the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the liturgical calendar refers to this Sunday as the “Reign of Christ” Sunday. This weekend, we have the chance to meditate on Christ as Lord — the Sovereign to whom Christians owe allegiance and devotion.
I can remember back to the early days of my faith journey, where I was told that, in order to be “saved,” I needed to call out to Jesus as “Lord” and give my life to him. This language makes perfect sense when coupled with a well-known passage from Romans, which says, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord…you will be saved.”
The biblical use of “lord” is multi-faceted. We use it to translate the Hebrew word adonai, which refers to some kind of superior, whether secular or religious. It is used for one’s master, governor, prince, or leader. It is also the preferred translation for the term YHWH, which was the personal and covenantal name of God. This Hebrew word is more literally translated as “I Am” as we see in the story of Moses and the burning bush.
The Greek work kyrios is also translated as “Lord,” and can refer to either of these two meanings. To confess Jesus as Lord implies both submission to God’s authority and enjoyment of God’s covenant blessings. Many of us like the latter but would rather avoid the former.
If we aren’t willing to submit our lives to Christ, then maybe we ought to rethink calling him lord. Is it any wonder that Jesus said, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?”
I’ll confess, I think that I probably approached calling Jesus “Lord” as if it were some kind of magical formula or a kind of password used to unlock the riches of heaven and eternal life. I don’t think that the people teaching me about Christ meant to suggest that kind of attitude, but that is what I took away nonetheless.
It would be later that I would come to a rather sobering realization: if I’m not willing to let go of my plans, my possessions, and my privileges, then I should probably stop calling Jesus “Lord.” If I’m not willing to let Jesus come in and disrupt my life — the way I talk, love, forgive, work, vote, spend my money, use my resources, and invest my time — I should probably stop calling him “Lord.”
I wonder what it might mean for your life to honestly call Jesus, “Lord.” I would encourage you to take some time this weekend and see what the evidence of your life tells you.