“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”
In your life you’ve probably heard, and even spoken, the sentiment that goes something like this: ignorance of the law doesn’t exempt you from its consequences. There are lots of ways it is expressed. When you’re pulled over for speeding and you share with the police that you didn’t realize you were in a school zone, or that the posted speed limit had decreased for whatever other reason, they may tell you to just slow down. Or they may give you the ticket – because you still face the consequences for having sped, even though you didn’t know you were doing it. It seems so unfair, in this case. But it’s not. And when your own children break the house rules and you’re dealing out some kind of disciplinary measure and they tell you they didn’t know the rule applied under those circumstances, you tell them that it always applies, and that they still have to face the consequences for breaking the rules even though they didn’t realize they were doing so. And it’s fair.
When we admit that we’re sinners in need of the mercy of our lord, we are saying that we’ve broken the rules that govern us – whether we are fully aware of what that means or not, whether we are fully cognizant of the rules or not. So the question is this: what realm does the Lord govern – where are we subject to God’s authority? His Kingdom is not of this world, like those of other lords: there are no physical boundaries within which we are subject to Him and outside of which we are under the authority of another.
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Re 11:15b). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Those words may be familiar to you as the words of the voices in heaven at the sound of the seventh trumpet. Or you may know them better from Handel’s Messiah. The gist of this verse is that the Lord’s reign is over all of the earth, everywhere its people may go. There are people who dodge the consequences for their actions by changing their addresses: they travel to another country, or even another state within their country, where the rules are different from their own. By doing so, they are enabled to do what they want without breaking the law. What the Bible says is that God’s dominion is everywhere. You can’t plead that you were in Canada at the time, and so you weren’t under God’s authority.
We like the image of there being no place we can go that would set us apart from God’s love: no mountain too high, no ocean too deep or expansive that His love cannot reach us across. Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39). We trust that promise – we bank on that promise. But at the same time we so often run the paradox of acting as though we are not under His lordship: Tush, He does not see… (Psalm 94, which also offers the rejoinder: He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see?). And the truth of this is that even those who do not call Him Lord are under His lordship. And ignorance of His rule does not spare one the consequences of His rule. The consequences of living in His Kingdom of peace and love, where the sovereign can be appealed to for mercy – and because of His mercy, should be revered (Psalm 130). And so His reign recognized, His way walked in.
Another fairly common expression is this: It’s just business. I usually reflect on it with Charles Dickens. In this case, however, let me just drop this here: nothing is just business because everything is within the realm of the sovereignty of the Lord of heaven and earth. Jesus rightly pointed out that you cannot have two lords – nobody can. You will love and serve one, and not the other (Matt. 6:24). If you are serving “business” or “mammon” or yourself, you are serving the past ruler of this world – whose kingdom will not stand, because this kingdom has become God’s Kingdom, and He will reign for ever and ever.
When we serve others – those who are not the Lord God – we sin against His lordship, His Kingdom which is now, but not yet; which is come, yet is coming. For this, we ask His mercy when we pray The Jesus Prayer.