I’m in a beautiful and sorrowful place. My travels have brought me to a stunning seaside within a country that significantly restricts the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Here, unless you were born Christian, you can’t abandon the national religion to follow Jesus. Those who change their mind in that way are not treated well. They are considered traitors, sometimes even martyred. Still, there’s so much beauty: amazing people, deep history and the glories of creation.
When I’m in places like this I can’t help reflect on what it means to live where I live. It’s also beautiful and sorrowful. I could fill a page with lists under both those categories, I’m sure. Nothing quite helps seeing what’s good and ugly about your own culture as being in another one.
So here I sit and I’m struck by a renewed thought. No, more than a thought; it’s a conviction. Actually, it’s even more than that; it’s a renewed confession. Thoughts are common to us all. Convictions can arise, but a confession takes both a step further and puts my word to what I think and have become convicted of. Once I utter a confession I invite accountability as to whether I live as I have said I am convinced of.
What is this renewed confession of mine? That Jesus Christ is Lord.
Why are there nations in the world that forbid that confession in the 21st century? Why are there other places, like the North American one I reside in, that increasingly chide that confession? I’m struck anew by the fact that there’s something to this name, this person, this Saviour, that deeply disturbs humanity. He is so beautiful, so full of grace and truth. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the love of God in human flesh and he bears our sorrows, even becoming a man of many sorrows. He is beautiful and sorrowful.
Saul, the religious fundamentalist who silenced the confession of Christ as Lord, eventually wrote as the Apostle Paul: “. . . if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Some Christians in North America are dismissing the power of those words because they’ve been minimalized or trivialized into meaningless church-speak. We must repent of such dismissiveness. From where I write—a context not unlike the first century—to make that confession is rebellion. These are not trite words, but the clarion declaration of a name that is above every name.
On this trip I heard of a prominent Christian scholar who met with a leading cleric of a country more restrictive than the one I am in. When asked, “What should I tell Christians in North America?” the cleric replied, “Tell them to follow Jesus, because when they follow Jesus, good things happen.”
I know that sounds so counter-intuitive: the leader of another religion telling North Americans to follow Jesus. Can we receive that as a prophetic word, a corrective to our shrugging at the uniqueness of the one who said he was the light of the world?
I don’t know where you’re sitting as you read this. But is it time to make a new or renewed confession? Jesus Christ is Lord! In many beautiful and sorrowful places this still matters deeply. Does it matter to you? Does it matter to Mennonites?
Phil Wagler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is author of Kingdom Culture and can’t wait to get home to British Columbia to live out the confession with his family.