Jesus is Not the Secretary of Afterlife Affairs

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference about anabaptism and church mission. This is third installment in blog posts responding to the main presenters. Today, I’m responding to Brian Zahnd. Brian is the pastor of the Word of Life Church in Missouri. He is also a speaker and the author of “A Farewell to Mars.”

One of Brian’s favorite ways to talk about Jesus is to say, “Jesus is not the Secretary of Afterlife Affairs.” By this, he means “Jesus is our Lord, now, on Earth.”

Not, Jesus will be our Lord when we go to heaven.
Not, Jesus’ is in charge, but his jurisdiction is heaven.
Not, Jesus is Vice-Lord.
Not, Jesus is Lord-elect.
Not, Jesus is my ticket for getting into heaven.

But, Jesus is Lord, right here, right now.
His Kingdom is on Earth.
Which means I’m in his Kingdom.
So I should live like I’m part of his kingdom.

Most Christians don’t bat an eye at the concept of “Jesus is Lord.” It’s standard terminology in the Christian Church. So much so that we’ve become very desensitized to its implications.

Imagine that you are a member of the very early church. This means that you live in the Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, there was only one lord. The Caesar. The Emperor. No Lord but Caesar. So to say “Jesus is Lord.” Was to commit treason.

To say “Jesus is Lord” was to say “Caesar is not.”

No wonder so many early Christians were killed. And no wonder Jesus was crucified, a form of execution reserved for acts of political sedition.

We don’t have that vocabulary anymore, and we don’t live in that political reality anymore, so we have lost the radical implications of saying that Jesus is Lord.

It is our job as Dunker Punks to acknowledge and reclaim the radical implications. Being a Dunker Punk is to be countercultural. Being a Dunker Punk is to be nonconformist. Being a Dunker Punk is to be a radical follower of Jesus.

Here’s the problem:

The Church in the United States is very nationalistic. We love to call the United States a “Christian nation.” This is dangerous because it gives the United States the appearance of wielding the power and authority of Christ, while relegating the actual Jesus to the sidelines.

One of my favorite quotes is by the author, theologian, and activist Jim Wallis: “Mixing the Church with politics is like mixing ice cream with manure. It doesn’t do much to the manure, but it really messes up the ice cream.” Any time the Church becomes part of the power structure, as it has in the United States, it betrays its heritage as a subversive institution that challenges the powerful and stands up for the powerless.

This is the culture that we have to counter. This is what we can’t conform to. Whereas the Church in the United States wants to confine Jesus’ love and power to the borders of the United States, Dunker Punks understand that Jesus loves everybody, and we have to do the same.

The borders of Christ’s kingdom don’t end at the Atlantic or the Pacific or the Rio Grande, so our love can’t either. Christ on the cross reveals a God who would rather die than kill. By following Jesus, “love your neighbor as yourself” and “love your enemies” are the pillars of our foreign policy. And feeding the hungry, healing the sick, clothing the poor, and standing with the imprisoned are the pillars of our domestic policy. And the terms “foreign” and “domestic” are irrelevant because we are all children of God.

Jesus on the cross should prove to us that a different organization of society is possible. Dunker Punks must be leaders in following Jesus. We are living in Christ’s kingdom, and we have to act like it.

That starts with us saying “Jesus is Lord,” and accepting the radical implications.


Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter @DunkerPunks and on Facebook.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

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