May 26, 2021
The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” (Psalm 110:1-2).
Our text is part of a military psalm. Its battle time. In the New Testament it was linked to Jesus’ ascension into heaven. This is one of the psalms that led to the composition of the song, “Lord of lords and King of kings”. It is a central doctrine of the Christian faith: Jesus reigns over earth from heaven. Our faith in Jesus the king is a source of comfort and courage for Christians.
But there are ways that this truth can be misused. I want to mention two to help us live more fully out of this comfort. A possible misuse is that I shrink this reality to be about me. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that Jesus’ ascension means that he ‘defends and protects us’ (A51). Its easy for us to assume this means that everything should go well for me or for my church. When trouble arises, our first response seems to be ‘Why?’ or ‘How could God let this happen to me or to us?’.
But that was never the intent of this teaching. It needs to be understood in light of Jesus statement to his disciples, “I will build my church.” This was just after Peter declared that Jesus was the Messiah of God. This Messiah would build his church. Revelation 19:11ff shows a picture of the victorious church, but the New Testament clearly shows that the road to victory would not be straight and easy. It would be difficult with plenty of setbacks and hardships including the martyrdom of many Christians.
Our doctrine of Christ’s Lordship recognizes that there is a long road to travel before every tongue acknowledges his Lordship and every knee bows before him. We can endure the agony of the journey because we know how it will end. The journey becomes more bearable when we learn to change our prayer from ‘Lord bless me’ to “hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done.” We must become less; he must become more.
Now a second way that we can misuse our faith in Christ’s Lordship. One of my favourite hymns growing up was, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war.” The church organ made us want to march. I imagined columns of iron clad Christians carrying machine guns and swords marching off to distant lands. As I got older, and hopefully more mature, I realized that this was not the image the Bible presents for the church.
Paul is emphatic, “be completely humble, and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). And Peter adds that when we give reason for our hope in Christ as Lord, we are to do so with ‘gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 4:15).
Too often, the church has attempted to use military and political means to achieve Christ’s victory. It sets us back each time. This kind of marching always sets us against other people. The church is not against other people, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
Being kind and gentle and compassion can appear rather insignificant. It does not make the news. We do not need to make the news; nor do we need to be impressive. We are called to follow Jesus, who is Lord. He will build his church through our acts of kindness and compassion, through our gentleness and love for each other and the stranger.