I have read and heard a saying a few times that I wish I knew the source of, but I don’t, so I will just say it and hope that the originator will eventually get the credit. The saying is this: “Our only dogma is ‘Jesus is Lord’; everything else is commentary.” That can sound trite to some people, but deep down, I think it is true. We can’t explain God, or life or the universe, and we have not yet come up with a real explanation of Jesus, but at least with Jesus we have accounts of eyewitnesses of his life, and we have a connection with the still-thriving community that gathered around him and eventually called him Lord.
So: “Jesus is Lord” is basically the only theology we can hang on to, but the interpretation of that dogma is as wide and diverse as anyone who has ever dealt with at least two humans could expect it to be. There are, however, two main interpretive tools of that dogma that can be recognized throughout history (there are probably more). These two main interpretive tools have produced divisions in the church as a whole, as well as within denominations, families, and even within individuals. The two interpretive tools are: Love and Fear.
Using Fear as the lens through which we see Jesus as Lord emphasizes “Lord” as a dread force to be placated, and “Jesus” as a judge who condemns people. Using Love as the lens through which we see Jesus as Lord emphasizes “Lord” as a merciful benign catalyst for peace and joy, and “Jesus” asa a judge who discerns evil and cleanses us of it so that we can be free and happy.
Some people have trouble with the word “Lord” as sexist and oppressive, and one can see why, but it need not be that way. “Jesus, the cleansing agent who brings peace, joy, and health as the foundation of a community of peace, joy, and health”: that is the interpretation that hopefully we will choose as we ponder our only dogma through the lens of Love: “Jesus is Lord”. AMEN