I was chatting to a young man the other day who posed a great question that could be summarised like this: Why is it so hard to find genuine, healthy masculinity within the church? After listening to his story, it was clear he was in search of more than just a role model.
It was not so long ago that I would have launched into such questions with a response, loaded with an unhealthy dose of judgement, that would point to the brokenness of men and their inability to lead- be it in a church setting or any other organisation, business, or social group. There is, in my opinion, a good answer to this kind of questioning, however, it is not as simple as pointing the finger at one’s brokenness.
Most of us indeed avoid the brokenness within. Let’s be honest, it’s hard facing the truth of such matters. Looking in the mirror- so to speak, can be quite ugly at times when we are faced with our inner struggles and what the effects are on the world around us. The easiest and quickest way to avoid these struggles is to find relief. This avoidant behaviour can be all sorts of things, gaming, addictions, work, sports, passivity, anger, and even religion and the accompanying behaviours we all recognise.
It is because we know these behaviours work for us (on some level at least), that we can easily go for years without addressing such issues. Believe me, I am guilty of this too. Sadly, not addressing the man in the mirror, will only lead to a compounding of brokenness and a life lived more distant from our hearts and even further away from the person, we desire to be. What we must come to realize is that relief is not equal to restoration and how recognising that we need restoration, is necessary on our journey in becoming the man God sees in us.
There is much talk about masculinity these days and most of it is accompanied by words such as toxic, unhealthy, bad, and evil. But pointing to one’s behaviour and then singling out an entire gender, only to label them “toxic” or “evil” is the definition of discrimination. Sadly, this “supposedly” new era we are living in, is in my opinion, too eager it seems, and without hesitance, onboard with these kinds of statements. This is not only the “woke” generation either. This message has found its way into every fabric within our society and consequently our church also. This too has its effects on how Christian men see themselves, and their behaviour.
It is true that within psychology, learning is a change in behaviour resulting from experience.
If you cannot experience healthy masculinity, how can you expect to see a behaviour change?
This is where Jesus comes into play. If anything, he is the masculine norm we should be focused on. And I am not referring to the “meek & mild” Jesus either. This is what I was told for many years. And to some degree, we may see Jesus as kind, compassionate, loving and caring, but never meek nor mild. Don’t forget that He is also fierce and by no means a pushover. Have you ever read the stories about Jesus going against the religious leaders? Or, what about the story where he is kicking out the merchants in the temple (Matthew 21)?
If we are to become the man God sees in us, then we may also expect him to show us how to become that person. And He did. Jesus is quite clear on this when he announces his mission statement in Luke 4 and Isaiah 61. He talks about restoration, freedom, restoring sight and releasing us from things that are keeping us bound in life. Moreover, in good business practice, a mission statement does not exist in isolation, it goes hand-in-hand with a vision statement. This is John 10:10, where Jesus says: “I have come to give you life in abundance”. Knowing who you are to become, will lead to this promised life. Isn’t that amazing?
So back to my friend’s question about masculinity in the church. I would answer this question with one of my own: If a man does not know who he is, how can we expect him to behave in a manner that is attractive or inspiring? In church or otherwise.
The one fundamental truth we can build our hopes upon is this; we have a father who is fiercely committed to seeing you restored to the man He intended you to be. If you are hungry for that, then our next retreat might be something for you to consider.