The last Sunday of the Christian year draws nigh, and we will celebrate Christ the King on November 24th as we complete Year C of the lectionary cycle. The whole story of redemption has been recounted as we have moved through the liturgical seasons. Now as we sum up the year, we acknowledge that Christ rules in righteousness.
Varied images give perspective on this kind of ruling. From Jeremiah we hear of the one who will reign and “deal wisely . . . and execute justice and righteousness in the land” (23:5b). The Benedictus promises that the mighty savior will “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).
Two more texts illumine Christ as God’s instrument of ruling. In the great Christ hymn of Colossians, we hear this expansive vision:
He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation;
for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created,
things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—
all things have been created through him and for him.
Finally, Luke’s Gospel describes the ignominy of being crucified under a placard that reads: “This is the King of the Jews” (23:38). Ruling from a cross was scandalous then—and now.
Clearly, the divine protocol for ruling is not the despotic and self-serving pattern we see all too often in our broken world. Rulers live lavishly while their “subjects” are in squalor; rulers bind heavy burdens on them and do little to lighten the load. They do not rule in the fear of God, as the Scripture enjoins them to do.
Righteousness is the key biblical concept for divinely approved practices, and its main focus is right behavior within a community. It is hardly an abstract concept! Justification, the action of God in granting humans “right standing,” prepares us to act justly. Righteousness and justice—having both legal and covenantal meaning—are the source of participation in God’s rule.
The New Testament describes Christ as “our righteousness.” As we live in him, we allow his rule to order our lives. Tender in his shepherding, strong in his denunciation of oppression, and victorious in his battle with evil and death, Christ Jesus rules as God’s anointed one. Come, let us worship him.
Molly T. Marshall