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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  • Patrick Mitchel

    When we (I) have little or no interest in, or compassion for, the poor and the marginalised ..

  • Patrick

    Good grief, Jesus didn’t speak against wealthy people, He challenged that 1 wealthy man about his adherence to the Torah after the deluded man claimed 100% adherence to Torah and Jesus simply made it clear he was not in adherence at all because IF he was, he would have shared what he had instead of simply accumulating more and more stuff because that’s what Torah required.

    His refusal to give it away and follow Jesus made it clear he loved mammon more than Jesus or his neighbors, not that wealth in and of itself is evil.

    Didn’t Jesus say love God and man was that what the entire Torah hung on?

    Talking about missing the point. Did this man ever read Job??? How about God giving Solomon untold wealth??? How King David? How about God answering Jabaz’s prayer so Jabaz could help people? I guess these uber wealthy men won’t be there with this gentleman.

    I hate preachers preaching modern ideological trash and that statement is nothing but modern ideological, political trash. That’s reading into the text what you think.

    A great servant of Christ’s like JC Penney will fare better in Christ’s judgment than some poor believer who cared less for Christ or humanity, you can count on that.

    Some of the rest of his concerns are reasonable, not this one.

  • Andrew Dowling

    LOL, talk about attempting to rationalize. If it was all just about “loving mammon more than Jesus” why did Jesus tell him to sell everything; why not “just follow me and keep the wealth so your wealth can help spread the word”?

    “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”

    “And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye?
    for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye
    your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your
    reward shall be great”

    “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the
    other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You
    cannot serve both God and Money.”

    Jesus continually spoke against the accumulation of wealth. It’s there throughout the Gospels. A rich person by definition has accumulated vast sums of wealth. If one disagrees, fine, but don’t pretend the words of Jesus are somehow buttressing your argument.

  • scotmcknight

    Andrew, no need to jump up and down. Just calmly express what you have to say. Thanks.

  • scotmcknight

    Patrick, no need to insult the writer. Dr Lohfink is an octogenarian Bible scholar in the finest Catholic traditions in Europe. We can presume he’s thought about these things.

  • Andrew Dowling

    ? Unsure how the above wasn’t “calmly expressing” what I had to say . . respectfully it may be that you’re envisioning an angry shouting voice behind the words; I can assure you it’s the opposite.

  • revdrummer

    Prof. Mcknight, I’m more convicted that I can’t finish the sentence. This was like a bomb dropping into my soul. Jesus is tamed when I make him into simply a moral teacher and don’t acknowledge his Kingship over all things. Jesus is tamed when I’m more concerned about my own comforts and neglect the poor around me.