On Taming Jesus

On Taming Jesus November 12, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.18.30 PMWhen do we tame Jesus? when is the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus of our faith tamed? If spirituality is formation into Christlikeness then taming Jesus diminishes spiritual formation. Where has our formation been shortened by taming the Jesus toward whom we are to grow?

Most of our taming of Jesus is invisible to us and most of it is unintentional. Some of it is intentional and some of it hidden because otherwise it would be too visible. But we tame Jesus because sometimes his Word is too powerful or too penetrating. Sometimes because we are not ready for it and sometimes because we want to get beyond Jesus. But his word stands there — in its utter simplicity and clarity. But we do tame his words.


In his book No Irrelevant Jesus: On Jesus and the Church Today, Gerhard Lohfink, that well-known German professor who left the university professorship to live in community with others, spins off a few examples of where we tame Jesus (17-18) — and after reading his short list I wonder if you have some others to add to his:

Jesus is tamed and made irrelevant in a terrible way when we cease to speak about his imminent expectation.

Jesus is rendered irrelevant when his preaching of judgment, which makes up a significant portion of the gospel tradition, is ignored and there is talk only of the loving and tender Jesus.

Jesus is tamed when there is no more preaching about his sharp words against the rich. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” Jesus said (Mark 10:25).

Jesus is tamed when it becomes taboo to speak of his celibacy. It was not accidental and not a matter of fate; it is connected with his absolute devotion to the people of God….

Jesus is also tamed when we sharply criticize the treatment of divorced and remarried persons by Rome and yet keep silent about the altogether clear and thoroughly well-attested words of Jesus against divorce. …

Above all, Jesus is tamed and rendered irrelevant when he is presented only as a sympathetic rabbi, a prophet mighty in word and deed, or a gifted charismatic—or as the first feminist, a radical social revolutionary, a gregarious social worker. All that conceals his true claim. In all these categories Jesus is shrunken, distorted, twisted into shape, planed smooth, disempowered, and accommodated to our secret desires. 

We tame Jesus when we colonize his vision into our vision, when our enemies become his enemies (Anne Lamott said something like this), when our friends alone become his special friends, when his people is diminished by our individualism……

go ahead, complete my sentence.

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