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. 

Public, Private, and Secret

A friend of mine, Rev. Steve Heyduck, and me were in a conversation in which he shared that a friend of his said there are three areas of boundaries. There are things that are public, private and secret.

The public is that which everyone knows. The private is that which a small group knows. The secret is that which maybe only you or one other person knows.

There is a growing concern that these boundaries are being broken down. In the age of twitter and instant updates and celebrity worship and reality television, there is a lot of chatter that we expect people to bring their private and secret lives into the public. Transparency is all the rage these days and there is a growing lament that too much private is becoming public.

In the church there is always a concern that the private conversations will become public. There are too many broken relationships that happen when a confidential conversation becomes public. This is a concern and we should be vigilant to protecting the private and secret aspects of our lives.

However, I find that while relationships are broken when the private becomes public, churches are also being broken when the public becomes private.

From finances to theology, there are a number of things that the church used to have in the public but have allowed them to shift to the private. Churches don't talk about somethings in the public. We don't talk about LGBT issues in public worship. We don't talk church finances we don't talk the hurt and pain in our world. We don't talk about accountability or many other things that are public knowledge but we have mode into the private silo.

Part of the gospel is to bring to light the public which has become private. This is why we reject Gnosticism (secret knowledge in order to gain salvation). This is why the meetings of the UMC are open meetings (with the exception of staff parish relations committee, which functions like HR for a local church).

Ensuring the public does not become private is a reason the church lead the way to bring about civil rights (ensuring that public places/rights are for all people and not just a few).

This is also why the UMC has an open communion table. The table of Christ is always a public table.