Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Lord and My God

In case you've missed it, there's been sort of a theme this week in my writings. Each day has been "this and that" - prophets and teachers, vows and oaths, hopes and dreams. Today, one more: my Lord and my God.

This God of ours has many names, of course. It really depends on what we're doing or what we're praying or how we're worshiping as to what we call Him, and often, there's no rhyme nor reason to the name we choose. We may call Him God or Lord or Father or Holy or some mix thereof or some name I've not mentioned. For most of us, it's not unlike looking at a man named William and deciding whether to call him William, Will, Bill, Billy, Willy, or Bubba. Each name, to us, refers to the same man. 

But each name reflects something distinct about him. And it is the same with God. 

And I think one of the hardest places to see this is in the distinction between Lord and God. These names are used so frequently of Him in the Scriptures that they're easy to read right by. They don't evoke the same kind of relational understanding as a name like 'Father,' which seems relatively straightforward. But they are relational names. They don't seem to name a characteristic of God the way something like 'Holy One' would, but they are, indeed, names characteristic of Him. 

The key to understanding something very special about our God may lie in His more intimate moniker: Lord. See, in the world at large, both past and present, there were a great many gods. Every nation had its own god or gods. Households, too, usually had their own gods. Everyone knew of at least a handful of different gods. Our God? He was just one of them. 

The idea of a god says something about the being in question. It is a reflection of that being's relation to creation itself or, in the absence of a good creation story, to simply the world as we know it. A god is a being that is set above the world somehow, that pulls its strings, that choreographs its movements. There's a lot of power in a title like 'god.' There's an indication of greatness, although no implication of goodness. Indeed, when we talk about our God, we're talking about our Creator. We're talking about the God who set this world in motion, who formed it in His hands, who breathed life into it with His own breath. 

And that's one thing. 

But Mark quotes Jesus saying something interesting, and this is where we uniquely draw our distinction from the peoples of other gods. Jesus says, Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. (12:29)

This is an incredibly powerful statement in a world in which there is a god on every corner. And it requires us to ask the question: what, then, is a Lord?

Lord is a relational word, too, just as God is. Where God is relational to all of creation, Lord is relational to specific creation. Lord implies a more intimate relationship between parties because a Lord is actively, personally involved in the lives of His flock. Lord implies closeness. As if He is simply so near that He could reach out and touch us if He so desired.

And He does.

There's a lot of tenderness in a name like 'Lord.' 

That's what's missing with all these other gods floating around. When Jesus makes this statement that says that the Lord our God is the only Lord, what He's really saying is that no other god cares so personally for His people as our God. No other god is close enough to make a real difference in an individual's life. No other god is willing to give up his all-powerful god status and his relationship with creation as a whole to have a relationship with the created itself. But our God is. He draws near to us, near enough to reach out and touch us. Near enough to hold our hands. Near enough to guide our steps.

Lord, in later times, would become a social status. A lord was someone who owned a household, who managed its affairs, who operated a little community within his larger community. He had wealth and status, sure, but it was an honor to work in the lord's household because he took care of the persons under him. You were never merely a slave to a lord; you were an investment of his. And the same is true when we think of the Lordship of our God. We're not merely His slaves or His pawns or His possession; we're an investment. He invests Himself in us. He's running a  little community here inside the greater world. It's a community of us and Him. And He takes care of us. 

So when we talk about God, we're talking about one thing but when we talk about our Lord, we're talking about something else entirely. When those whispered words seep out of our Scriptures - my Lord and my God - they are referring to two very distinct aspects of our God that make Him wholly unlike any other God. These simple words call out both the Creator of the World and the Lover of my Soul in the very same breath. 

My Lord...and my God...

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