Recently, I had a lunch with someone who’s a few months out from becoming a dad for the first time. He shared how cynical he was about the world. Everything everywhere is bad, and it shows no signs of getting better anytime soon. Bringing a child into this world scares him.
It scared me.
It’s true. The world is broken, and it doesn’t take a scientist to tell us that. No one needs mountains of evidence to confirm the existence of suffering, anger, vitriol, racism, hatred, and death.
Most people have their beliefs explaining why things are as bad as they are – maybe even why they seem to be getting worse. Some will blame general human action in the world. We mess up everything: climate, rainforests, water, and MySpace. Eventually, we destroy what we love. Others blame religion. Some will point their fingers at government. In America, half the population will blame Obama for hitting all the red lights when they’re late for the Macy’s sale, even though we all know it’ really the devil’s fault.
Eventually, when talking about the brokenness of our society and world, you’ll get around to blaming men in some way. Fatherlessness, which is a significant problem, is a prime example. But we can also include men being blamed because they have become weak, wussies, lazy, feminine, and spineless. “If men were men,” the logic goes, “then we wouldn’t have problem X.”
Shaming men into action is the first play in the playbook. Guys have to prove themselves as men; we don’t just get to be a man. This leaves men wondering if they have done enough to measure up in the eyes of others, particularly other men. Tapping into this anxiety, shaming men can be a strong motivator. Men will get into action. If you wanted to get Marty McFly to do something, calling him a chicken was all it took to cause him to forget that he had to stop his mom from being infatuated with him less the space time continuum implode. If you want men to step up and take responsibility in the world, tell them they are lazy, or that they’re been chickified, or that they’re wimps. Sadly, this tactic has found its way into the church. It won’t take long to find a church playing this tune to “motivate” dads on Father’s Day.
Demanding men prove themselves is antithetical to a gospel that says we have nothing to prove. Christians should not use a tactic so rooted in American ideals to help men take effective action in the world. We should be different.
The gospel says that long before you were worthy of the title, God declared you, in Christ, to be an adopted son or daughter. You didn’t have to prove anything. This was done simply by God’s good divine choice. This becomes the reason that we act in the world. We take responsibility in the world because we are sons of God. Daughters of God. We care for creation because we are stewards. Motivating men doesn’t need to happen by shaming them, it needs to happen by remind them of who they are.
This is just one of the things I unpack in my upcoming book Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood. By contrasting American ideals about masculinity with the person and work of Jesus, I hope to help men:
- Find freedom from unattainable ideals
- Find security in their identity as sons of God
- Find confidence to be vulnerable
- Find ways they can take responsibility for the world around them.
You can pre-order the book now where ever books are sold. Man Enough would be great for men’s groups to study together. If that’s something you’re interested in, send me a copy of your receipt and I’ll send you a free PDF study guide to use.
Help me get the word out. In Christ, you’re already Man Enough.