Skye Jethani: I’m thinking back to years ago. I was being interviewed on a Christian radio program. It went to a commercial break and during the break the host said, “Hey, when we come back I’m just going to throw some questions at you. I’d love to hear your response to them.” And I’m like, “Okay, sure.” So we come back from break and he starts talking about how effeminate Christian men have become, and how ineffective they have become and how we’re sitting around all the time just on the sofa watching TV. And we’re not leading and we’re not guiding our churches…So I’m listening to this for awhile as he’s monologuing and I’m going, how on earth am I going to respond to this? And he was putting all of the blame on feminism. And so finally he turned to me and said, “Well, what do you think about all of that?” And I tried to not completely blast him, but my interpretation was he’s attributing those negative qualities to femininity, and I said, “I don’t think it’s that men are behaving like women. I think it’s that these men are behaving like boys. That this is about immaturity, not masculinity.” And that kind of blew his mind. He had never heard that before. Because in his mental framework, there’s masculinity and femininity and that’s the spectrum. And if men aren’t behaving the way men should behave it’s because it’s because they are behaving like women. And I was saying, “No, I think it’s that men aren’t behaving the way they are supposed to behave because they’re behaving like boys. They’re immature. That axis did not exist in his conceptual framework.
Dear God, I heard this yesterday and it really gave me something to think about. Maturity vs. masculinity. In another part of this conversation they were talking about how exhibiting the fruits of the spirit can possibly come across as not being very masculine. In fact, if you express love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, and self control all of the time then it can come across as feminine and parts of our Christian culture can tend to look down on men who always exhibit those virtues.
First, let me interrupt this prayer by pointing out to you something you already know–it must be so amusing to you to see us all struggle to wrap our human minds around life and existence. We learn. We grow. We mature. And we try so hard. How often we must just look so foolish to you.
But back to my thoughts on this. When we first moved here there was a pastor at one of our town’s larger churches who was having difficulty with some of the parishioners. There was a faction within the church that I considered to be Unitarian that was trying to influence the theology taught, at a minimum, in their Sunday school class, and, at a maximum, within the entire church. As they positioned themselves against this pastor, who was trying to put an end their liberal, unChristian teaching, one of the criticisms made against him was that he wasn’t very masculine. And he was not a macho guy, but he was very masculine. He dressed nicely and wore suspenders. He didn’t care for sports. But if you decide to not care if he liked sports dressing in a more macho way, you saw a sensitive man who was compassionate and caring.
Ironically, the next pastor who replaced him was the opposite (by design). He was much more macho. Of course, the complaint about him was that he wasn’t empathetic or compassionate enough. He was insensitive. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?
Going back to this quote from Skye Jethani, what does a mature Christian man look like? What does it mean to grow up and no longer be a boy? Again, ironically, as I sit and think about it, to be a mature Christian man means to exhibit those fruits of the Spirit and put them into action. It means to wake up in the morning loving you with all of my heart, soul, and strength and then loving my neighbor as myself. It means being a good neighbor. It means working hard and being responsible and a good steward of the things you’ve given us. It means seeking out the place in the world that you have for us.
Father, help me to let go of the paradigms the world finds important and to embrace your truth. Help me to internalize that truth more and more each day so that I might find myself just living it naturally as I commune with you. Thank you for blessing the fruit of my work. Thank you for guiding me through various situations. And while I’m here, I am thinking of a couple of recent tragedies friends are experiencing. Please help them to find you through this. Make all of this pain count. There is some terrible emotional and physical pain going on. Please make it count and show me the role you have for me to play in their lives.
In Jesus’s name I pray,