Is Jesus Your Private Lord and Savior?

"Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?"

I was asked the question in college just about each week I attended the after-church-social-time at the coffee bar down the road from the church. I did not have much money and discovered that the evangelical church had money and would buy deserts in bulk. I participated in worship but then sat through the social time so I could take a few of these baked "meals" to go.

This important question is not one to scoff at. It is a question about your priorities, values and how you were living them out. If Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior then that means that your priorities and values reflected those of Jesus. Christians think that the priorities and values of Jesus are very good and trust that the world is transformed when they are lived out. 

Too often when we think about this question of Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, we (the Church) has failed to communicate what just that means. We have gotten lazy and just let the fringe define what this means. So let me be clear: accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior is not a punch card to heaven. It is not the secret code or the earned merit to get access to the Grace of God. Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is personal, it is not private. And therein lies the difference. 

 Photo by  Dayne Topkin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

Jesus is not your private Lord and Savior. In fact, Jesus not not anyone's private Lord and Savior. Jesus does not do private. Jesus is very personal, but not private. 

Accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior means at the very least you are living with those you find abhorrent and frustrating. It means being committed to upholding the value of another person even if you are repulsed by them. Yes, we need to keep proper boundaries when there is abuse, but boundaries drawn to isolate ourselves from everyone so that we live "just me and Jesus" is a misunderstanding of boundaries. 

If Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior than it means that you have given up the idea of exclusively practicing spirituality or religion on your own "private" time and "private" way. If your relationship with Jesus is private then you are treating him as your butler, not your Lord. 

Demons Don't Mess With Me!

As a child there were few people in the world as intimidating as Mike Tyson. No one messed with Mike Tyson. He was small, mighty, strong and fearless - all things that I desired to be physically. As I grew older I discovered that I was not the physical specimen that Tyson was so they physical strength was out of the question. However, I applied these same desired attributes toward my spiritual formation. That is I wanted to be as mighty, strong and fearless so that even the demons would be afraid to mess with me. 



By St. Poimen Greek Orthodox Broterhood Arizona, USA

As I come into my thirty-sixth year of life, I can proudly say that demons do not mess with me, but not because I am strong and mighty.  

One of the desert teachers of Christianity from the late antiquity period was given the name Abba Poemen. Abba Poemen was asked by a student "Why do the demons attack me?"

Abba Poemen said to him, "Is it the demons who attack you? It is not the demons who attack me. When we follow our self-will then our wills seem like demons and it is they who urge us to obey them. If you want to know who the demons really attack, it is against Moses (another Abba) and those like him." - The Desert Fathers by Benedicta Ward

I am less like Mike Tyson to the demons and more like "Glass Joe" - which is why the demons don't mess with me. I am easily overwhelmed by my own ego and self will to be any threat to a demon. 

Narcissism of minor differences in 1 John

Freud said in his essay Civilization and Its Discontents that every time two families become connected by a marriage, each of them thinks itself superior to the other. He called this sort of thinking "Narcissism of minor differences" and it is part of the human condition. We all want to be unique and in our efforts to be unique place a value on minor differences over the major and more fundamental similarities. We also are prone to become militant about these minor differences because our very identity is wrapped up in these minor differences. 

Here is a short video from Portlandia that speaks to the narcissism of minor differences:

In the church that John is writing to in the letter known as 1 John is a church where the narcissism of minor differences has run amok. There is a group of people we now call Gnostics Christians and they have separated from the church John is writing to. Additionally, John is quick to point out that these Gnostic Christians were not really followers any way but in fact they are antichrists. (When you read it in 1 John 2, it sounds something of a jilted lover.)

The point being, there were some in the community who struggled with things like the doctrine of the incarnation and they came to a different conclusion than other members of the church did. For this, and perhaps many other irreconcilable differences, they left. When they left, they were called antichrist. 

I know that now we can look back and believe that if one group saw the incarnation one way and others saw it another, we would say this is a minor difference. It was not to them. It was a major difference. So much so that people left the church and were branded as never really being with us anyway. 

Contrary to the common story, there has never been ONE way that Christianity has ever been practiced. There was never a time when the Church thought, believed or practiced alike. John's church had people who thought Jesus was crucified on the cross and others in the church thought Jesus' crucifiction was an illusion. As a result of these minor differences, the church split. While some see this as Biblical precedent to split, I see it as a cautionary tale of how not to live as the Church. 

When we have church leaders calling others antichrist and that they were never a part of us to begin with, then we really are reflecting rather than reforming the culture. 1 John has a lot of love language and some of the most eloquent prose/poetry in the New Testament to be sure. However, John is not perfect and perhaps falls prey to the narcissism of minor differences. 

Will we?