Throughout my childhood I was taught that The Lord has many names and that each of these is holy and represents something special about Him. But I’ve recently discovered that there is one of His names I have an aversion to hearing and, I suspect, there are others in the church with a similar handicap. Can you guess which name I mean?
Now my husband is a priest. Which means that a lot more thought and doctrinal research goes into the formation of his opinions than usually goes into mine. He is also a very intentional person. So when he starts to do something unusual, I know he is doing it on purpose. A few months ago, I started noticing him using the term “Jesus” a lot in his sermons and conversations. It felt odd to me—I would have said “The Lord” in those instances—but I assumed it had something to do with the doctorate program he is in at a Presbyterian school. Maybe he was trying to remind himself to use words that they would understand (to the old Christians, “Lord” refers to Jehovah). But recently he gave a (really fantastic) sermon where he used “Jesus” left and right and the General Church woman in me had to call him on it: What was he doing? Why wasn’t he using the acceptable term “The Lord”? “Jesus” sounded so trinitarian and old Christian!
Derrick informed me that he’s been seeing a lot of New Churchmen using “The Lord” in an “abstract” way; speaking of Him as if He were an unknowable Being disconnected from His humanity. So he has decided to use “Jesus Christ” and “The Lord” interchangeably whenever it works to try and combat that dehumanizing of Him and bring people back to seeing Him as Jesus.
I immediately pulled up the whole argument that “The Lord” is short for “The Lord God Our Savior Jesus Christ” and so entails all of His other names. Derrick agreed with me but insisted that he is encountering people who are using “The Lord” as if they were just referring to a “Jehovah God” separated from a “Jesus Christ.”
As I thought about his statements over the week, I realized Derrick might be on to something. For myself, while I usually call Our Lord God The Savior Jesus Christ simply “The Lord,” I am totally happy calling Him simply “God.” And I don’t flinch when the ministers use simply “Our Savior.” It is only when I hear “Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” on its own that I have problems. Why is that?
Derrick has a theory: The early years of the General Church were spent trying to distinguish the New Christianity from the Old. They emphasized all of the differences. Distancing themselves from the trinity-of-persons was one of the most essential distinctions to make. But when you define yourself by how you are different, you can lose sight of who you really are—overemphasizing some ideas and forgetting others. In this case, perhaps we were so intent on being New, that we forgot we are Christian.
You may know the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me.” Well, I know several ministers and many lay people who would not allow that song to be sung in church. But if you ignore the trinitarian perspective of the song’s author and look at the lyrics, the words are actually true: “Jesus love me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me.”
Are we as a Church avoiding one of His names? More importantly, are we unintentionally distancing ourselves a little from a part of Him by doing it?
”Nobody comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
If ever there was an idea that the evil spirits would want to erode in the minds of New Christians, I think it would be that Jesus Christ is God. Detaching us from His humanity by instilling an aversion to His name would be such a sneaky and nasty way to do that.
While I definitely think of God as a person, I’m not sure I always think of Him as that guy in the Book of Matthew. I know that that is exactly who I am supposed to picture when I think of The Lord. But I think I tend to approach the New Testament as “that’s what the Lord said and did when He was on Earth” rather than “that’s who the Lord is right now.” There is a subtle and important distinction between those two statements.
When I hear “Jesus” I immediately think of that man in the New Testament who is God. The name undoubtedly conjures up that image for me.
I’m still exploring this puzzle. If anyone has any good passages that might apply or different angles I could examine this from, I would love to hear them.
But mostly I’m curious what the extent of this problem is.
What emotional reaction do you have to calling Him “Jesus”?
“[B]y the name Lord is meant the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, and Him only; and He is called “the Lord” without the addition of other names. Throughout the universal heaven He it is who is acknowledged and adored as Lord, because He has all sovereign power in the heavens and on earth.” Arcana Coelestia 14