Bending the Knee

During the Divine Office, I’ve noticed that there are occasionally readings that refer to the idea that every knee will bend for God, and specifically for Jesus, to acknowledge that He is Lord. Not long ago, Father Dwight Longnecker wrote about how many Christians have a view of Jesus that would preclude them from bending the knee:

I had this uncle–my Dad’s brother who everybody loved. Uncle Don was a terrific guy. He had a heart of gold. He was the sort of uncle who gave you a nickname and a big hug. He seemed to like everybody. He was a pastor for a while, but then dropped out because the religious people were such a pain. He spent the rest of his working life teaching kids with special needs. Uncle Don was kind, wise, loving and affirming. He passed away a few years ago, and he’s much missed.

In teaching the eighth graders this morning I told them about Uncle Don and said the main problem with Christianity is that 90% of Christians–and this includes 90% of Catholics–believe that Jesus is no more than Uncle Don. They want what Fr Barron calls “the domesticated Jesus.” They want a Jesus who tells stories, gathers the kiddies up into his lap and reaches out to touch and heal and forgive. They don’t want Aslan. They want a tame lion. They want Jesus to be like my Uncle Don.

This is certainly not to knock the Uncle Dons of this life. Would that we were blessed with more of them.

But  Jesus is more than Uncle Don. He’s the Son of God. He’s the  Lord of Lords. He’s Christus Pantokrator–Christ the Lord of All.

As much as we love the Uncle Dons, no one is going to bend the knee to him.

But Scripture says multiple times that all of humanity will bend the knee to God, worship Him and acknowledge His majesty.


“To Me Every Knee Shall Bend”

This action is not because anyone is forced to do so, though there are some people who do not understand this. These people might see Christianity as something that mandates obedience, demands fealty to a God who is vengeful and punishing.

But this is a great misunderstanding of Who God is. God does want our obedience, but He cannot – and does not – force us to give it. We all have free will, and if it weren’t so, there would be no atheists. We all have the choice to love God in return (for He always loves us and is always faithful, even when we are not), or to reject His love. We can bend the knee or not.

At some point, we will all have to accept the Kingship of Christ Jesus, as Revelation points out. But until that day comes – when Jesus comes in His glory – we have the choice whether or not we’ll acknowledge Who Jesus is.

Until then, we decide whether or not we’ll live our lives as people who know the Truth. So what causes some people to willingly give praise and worship to God – to bend the knee?

Really, what happens to a person who has made the decision to live an authentically Christian life, who happily serves God and would even go so far as to call himself a slave for Christ, is that he has glimpsed a bit of God’s glory. When someone sees a glimpse of Who God truly is, and gains a bit of understanding of His great, unbounded love for us all, he wants to bend the knee. There’s little that can stop a person who sees this Love – even a tiny portion of it! – from wanting to do everything for God, including bending the knee.

This worship isn’t from servile fear or even from duty, but from pure love.

The clip below shows a young woman who has glimpsed this Love and has decided to give her entire life over to Him Who is Love.

The look on her face when she talks about God as her Spouse … I get that look on my face when I talk about my husband. And the things I do for my husband and family are not duties that are done because I’m forced to, but things I do willingly for love of them. The running around to dance and soccer, the laundry and cooking, the arranging of parties and get-togethers … these are things that I do because I love my family, not because someone is forcing me to do them.

And this is the crux of it: when we love the Lord, when we glimpse His glory and power and love for us, we want to do everything we can for him. We can’t help but bend the knee! It’s done out of a genuine, joyful love.

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