The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” - Romans 10:8b-13 (RSV)
Contrary to modern deistic notions of an uninterested faraway God, God is very near to us. He is near because in Jesus Christ he became human and lives within our suffering. He is near because he sends his Holy Spirit down into our daily lives. He is near because in his Blessed Sacrament of bread and wine he fuses his body to ours bringing us into total unity with him. Finally, he is near because he has promised to come again in glory to make all things new. In this nearness to Christ, we are rescued from exploitation by the world and brought into the self-giving, loving community of God.
In his life, suffering, death, and resurrection Jesus experienced and took into himself the entirety of humanity. All pain, all sadness, all happiness, all joy he took into himself. Jesus didn’t just experience this for the people he was born into, Palestinian Jews, but also for every human being who has, does, or will live. In the great mystery of the faith, Jesus, in living and dying as a human, so completely took on our nature that when he defeated death and corruption and rose again he also accomplished victory for all of humankind. For God in Jesus there are no “in groups” or “out groups,” all are invite into God’s fellowship.
The triune life of God is an eternal outpouring of sacrificial love. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit know no existence outside of their self-giving relationship. The triune God is not like the idols and false gods one often hears about. He doesn’t just want worship. He doesn’t want your stuff. He wants your heart. By this I don’t mean he just wants you to have warm feelings about him. This isn’t about you mentally agreeing to certain doctrines or beliefs. He wants you to love him. He wants you to love him so much that your desire is to give of yourself simply for his joy. Love is the true sign of belief. He wants your heart to participate in his eternal, self-giving relationship of love.
When you love the triune God, the love and good news of Jesus Christ is always on your lips. This is to say that your words and outward actions in the world proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. A proclamation or confession of Jesus is not a simple statement, but a way of being. In the face of hatred, you must confess Christ and show his love. When doubt arises and faith wanes, you must confess Christ and proclaim the truth of his nature as both God and human. When the world preaches darkness, loss, and futility, you must confess Christ as the risen Lord over death and bringer of life and light. Written words are cheap and can be said anonymously at a distance. To confess Jesus Christ as Lord is to speak with your lips, your name, your face, your self in a moment with humanity.
The world tells us that we are left alone to work things out for ourselves. The great hopes of our childhood are quickly broken to pieces as the magnitude of humanity’s situation comes to light. How can one get beyond all the brokenness in one’s own life, much less that of the world? To this St. Paul and all those who continue to confess Jesus Christ as Lord simply point to the empty cross and ask all of humanity to seek after relationship with God. Those who call on Jesus for help and willingly open themselves for relationship with him, will find their hearts transformed and their lips set afire by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the once offered sacrifice of Jesus Christ, unity with his body in Heaven and on earth, and growing relationship with the triune God all of humankind is freed from brokenness and opened to the miraculous new creation.
Barton, John, and John Muddiman, eds. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, 1990.
Wesley, John. Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, Fourth American Edition, New York: J. Soule and T. Mason, 1818.