Close your eyes. Picture yourself walking up to someone and addressing him as “my Lord.”
Okay, how did your imagination fill in the scene? What was around you? I’m thinking there had to be fancy clothes, maybe a throne. Had to be some shining armor.
The word was more at home at least a few generations back—unless you are a Christian. Then, with or without a thought, this is how you refer to Jesus. Calling Jesus our “Lord and Savior” is the required first step.
Does this mean Christians think of Jesus as a rich guy with an English accent?
Even if the word was common back in 1563, the Heidelberg Catechism still thought it deserved a clear explanation. Here is how this long-used and well-loved Reformed summary of Biblical Christianity addresses it
34 Q. Why do you call him “our Lord”?
not with gold or silver,
but with his precious blood—
he has set us free
from sin and from the tyranny of the devil,
and has bought us,
body and soul,
to be his very own.
The Catechism understands lordship to be about ownership.
- We used to belong to someone else—the devil, a tyrant who oppressed us.
- Jesus took action to change all that—he bought us to free us from that slavery.
- Now we belong to him—and that makes him our Lord.
If the simple word “lord” is uncommon today, the idea that lordship means outright ownership is completely unknown. Thinking we are someone else’s personal property is beyond countercultural. At face value it is offensive. We value independence and individual autonomy above all things.
It is, however, the Catechism’s consistent message. It echoes the famous first question, where we declared that our only comfort in life and in death is that we belong to Jesus rather than to ourselves.
How can being owned be good news?
Here in Q34 this transfer of ownership is a simple description of what Jesus has done for us. The Catechism portrays this as the solution to an enormous problem it detailed in Q3-Q11,
- Belonging to ourselves led to bad choices.
- Bad choices led to misery.
- Misery included slavery to a tyrant.
- We were powerless to escape.
Jesus has delivered us from slavery, from tyranny, from misery. He would be a fool to send us out to live on our own again. We would be fools to want it.
The One who loves us more than his own life has taken ownership. He’s going to teach us how live as truly free people—people who live in the way he instructs.
The irony is that American Christians say they “take” Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Yes, Jesus is Lord. I’m very happy he took me.
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