Domesticating Jesus

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…to proclaim good news to the poor. …to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (vv. 18–19).  

- Luke 4:16–30

Even those who have not formally studied the doctrine of Christ have constructed some kind of Christology. Many Americans think Jesus came to give them a “better life” in the here and now and to help them make friends and win influence. Others say Jesus would join movements to protect and conserve the earth’s resources or engage in other “environmentally-friendly” practices. Innumerable people understand Jesus to be the supreme ethical teacher who is concerned with accepting all into His kingdom even if they never repent of sin.

Friendship, the stewardship of creation, and the love of others are all praised in Scripture (Gen. 1:28; Prov. 17:17; 1 John 3:16); however, reducing the purpose and teaching of our Lord to any of these things ends up domesticating Him. A domesticated Jesus embraces the culture’s values without challenging them; He is a “safe” Jesus who is no threat to the established way of doing things.

Yet Christ did not come into the world to be “nice” or “safe,” and the Jesus we find in the Gospels cannot be domesticated. He brings a salvation that turns our values upside-down. Instead of the proud and arrogant, He exalts those of humble estate (Luke 1:52). Christ’s coming produces peace among His people, but it also sets the fallen world against His own (4:16–30). The scandal of the cross brings with it the promise of a final, cosmic redemption that will include all who believe. At the same time it becomes a stumbling block to unrepentant Jews and foolishness to hardened Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:18–31).

Though we know these truths, we also run the risk of domesticating Jesus, albeit in a different way. Often we limit His work to giving us a clean heart so that we may live forever in heaven. Certainly, our Savior is concerned with individual redemption, and only individuals who put their faith in Christ alone will be saved, But individual redemption is only part of His intent to redeem all creation. Our Lord’s full purpose is to bring a new heavens and earth in which we will dwell with Him forever (Isa. 65:17–25; 2 Peter 3:13). A Christology that does not take into account the reality of future, resurrected life and the renewal of all things is one that is severely lacking.

Coram Deo

The Christian faith does not believe in an ethereal kind of salvation that only encompasses a world we cannot see. Instead, because God created everything good and because He purposes to redeem His creation, we know that the final redemption He brings will encompass all things. We are therefore concerned to be good stewards of the earth, not because we worship nature, but because they are gifts of God that will one day be restored to their fullness.

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 25
Mark 11:15–19
Romans 8:18–25
Revelation 21

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