The very first creed of the Christian church was two words: Kyrios Iesous. Or, in English, “Jesus is Lord.” That was it. At first, there was no Apostles Creed, no virgin birth, no Council of Nicaea, no Holy Trinity, no theories of the redemption. Just two words. Kyrios Iesous.
It was a political statement. The one whom everyone honored as “lord” in the ancient world was the Emperor of Rome. It was written on the coinage. To say “Jesus is Lord” is to say, “and Caesar is not.” What did this mean? It meant that ultimate loyalty and trust were to be placed not in the Pax Romana, but in the peace that Jesus offered, the “peace that passeth understanding.” And what was it that Jesus offered? In its simplest form, Jesus offered the proof, in physical, tangible form, that God loves us.
How did Jesus show this?
- He was the Son of God, God in the flesh, born into a world of suffering. He was called Emmanuel, Hebrew for “God with us.”
- He repeatedly broke the letter of the law to fulfill the spirit of the law. The law God gave was always intended to give life: Jesus broke the specifics of Sabbath law in order to heal people. He showed that God was concerned with life and wholeness more than with order and rules.
- His preaching proclaimed grace, God’s love freely given to us, which then calls us to acts of service and love of neighbor.
- He created a new sacrament, with a promise that anyone who eats and drinks this bread and wine will actually be receiving his very presence in their lives. Emmanuel forever.
- Instead of fighting against the religious and political authorities, he allowed them to arrest, beat, and kill him. He prayed for their forgiveness even as they drove nails into his wrists and feet. He loved them even as they tortured and killed him.
- God raised him from the dead to show that nothing, not even the power of death, will ever stand in the way of God’s love. Christ’s resurrection is the very incarnation of Paul’s amazing statement in Romans 8: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (There’s the Kyrios Iesous again.)
Jesus showed us that God loves us. Jesus was God’s love for us, become flesh. The history of theology is all just footnotes to that. Or should be, at any rate. And the church of the last 2000 years should have been a source of such comfort and hope and joy for so many people. But it so often hasn’t been. Because we have forgotten, over and over and over again, that God loves us.
- We have fought wars for God’s honor, killing in the name of Jesus.
- We have proclaimed that people of other faiths are heathen and therefore deserving of severe punishment, even death.
- We have proclaimed that you have to do certain things, or God won’t love you.
- We have proclaimed that you have to believe certain things, or God won’t love you.
- We have proclaimed that you have to look a certain way, or have sex with the right people, or God won’t love you.
- We have proclaimed that being a Christian is all about “being a good person,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
- We have proclaimed that our holidays are more important than others. Our stories are more important than others. Our beliefs are more important than others.
- We have gotten so wrapped up in protecting our own rights, arguing with one another about points of doctrine, telling people how they should and should not act, oh, it goes on and on and on and on…
And we’ve forgotten that we have the best news that has ever been known. The news that God actually loves us. The news that God actually loves you. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, God loves you. No matter if you love God, God loves you. No matter if you’ve committed crimes or not, God loves you. No matter if you’re kind or grumpy, depressed or manic, sick or well, clean or dirty, male or female or something else, full or empty, black, white, blue, or green, God loves you.
If only we could remember that. Oh, if only we could remember that. And if only we could remember that it applies not just to us, but to everyone. Because that would give Christians the most amazing job in the world — to announce to everyone that God loves them. Not to tell them how to live their lives, or how to believe or how to act, but just the plain good news that God loves them. Imagine what it would be like if we actually believed that and acted on it.