Christian worship declares that Jesus is Lord and that therefore, by strong implication, nobody else is. What's more, it doesn't just declare it as something to be believed, like the fact that the sun is hot or the sea wet. It commits the worshipper to allegiance, to following this Jesus, to being shaped and directed by him. Worshipping the God we see in Jesus orients our whole being, our imagination, our will, our hopes, and our fears away from the world where Mars, Mammon, and Aphrodite (violence, money, and sex) make absolute demands and punish anyone who resists. It orients us instead to a world in which love is stronger than death, the poor are promised the kingdom, and chastity (whether married or single) reflects the holiness and faithfulness of God himself. Acclaiming Jesus as Lord plants a flag that supersedes the flags of the nations, however so "free" or "democratic" they may be. It challenges both the tyrants who think they are, in effect, divine and the "secular democracies" that have effectively become, if not divine, at least ecclesial: that is, communities that are trying to do and be what the church was supposed to do and be, but without recourse to the one who sustains the church's life. Worship creates—or should create, if it is allowed to be truly itself—a community that marches to a different beat, that keeps in step with a different Lord.

Ideally, then … the church, the community that hails Jesus as Lord and king, and feasts at his table celebrating his victorious death and resurrection, is constituted as "the body of the Messiah." This famous Pauline image is not a random "illustration." It expresses Paul's conviction that this is the way in which Jesus now exercises his rule in the world—through the church, which is his Body. Paul, rooted as he was in the ancient Scriptures, knew well that the Creator's plan was to look after his creation through obedient humankind. For Paul, Jesus himself is the Obedient Man who is now therefore in charge of the world; and the church is "his body, the fullness of the one who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:23). It is this vocation that gives the church courage to stand up in the face of the bullying self-appointed masters of the world, to resist them when they are forcing their communities to go in the wrong way, while at the same time demonstrating, in its own life, that there is a different way of being human, a way pioneered and now made possible by Jesus himself.

Used and condensed by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Related Elsewhere:

Simply Jesus is available from and other retailers.

Christianity Today also has more music, movies, books, and other media reviews.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.