The Gospel of Masculinity

Over the last few years we have seen a number of movements in Christianity to involve more men in the church and in spiritual activities. I welcome this trend, because spirituality has too long been the province of only a small percentage of men. This is not because I think that women need men to keep them straight in church. Rather, it’s because men need spiritual food as well. The church is enriched by the involvement of a great variety of people.

The problem that I see, which was emphasized by Mark Driscoll’s recent video (link to my post about it), is that we reshape the gospel to fit the people instead of the people to fit the gospel. I don’t mean that the gospel is for only one type of people, but the gospel does (or should) change people in substantial ways.

To some, however, there seems to be a new Jesus. Replacing “gentle Jesus meek and mild” is the Jesus who would own several guns, go hunting and fishing, be a sports fan if not an active participant, drive a pickup truck, and always have control of the TV remote. This is the Jesus who wouldn’t let anyone push him around, whose solution to crime is to go catch them and put them in jail or hang them. Some folks sound like Jesus likes people who don’t share these characteristics less. Men, such as myself, who don’t need to have the remote in their hands and don’t own a gun aren’t taking leadership and aren’t masculine enough. Their wives won’t really love them, and God despises their lukewarm attitudes because they are not clearly and obviously in command of their home.

Now some good, very masculine men may be offended by that last paragraph, but you see I think the “gentle Jesus meek and mild” is also a dangerous caricature. For some years we’ve had in many churches the sort of Jesus who can’t stand the hunters and fisherman, who has a special section of heaven roped off for the folks who drive pickup trucks so they won’t get in the way of the truly spiritual folks who drive subcompacts, and probably doesn’t like cops because they arrest people instead of converting them.

OK, now I’ve offended another group. My point is simply that Jesus is there to take you from where you are, and to lead you to be a better person, no matter what your personality. Christianity is not about making you into some sort of caricature of the personality someone thinks is most “Christian.” It’s about taking a variety of people and making them better able to serve their fellow human beings.

There are folks who serve one another who are quite fond of guns. One pastor I know is a retired sheriff’s deputy. He’s a good shot and a wonderful Christian man at the same time. Another man I know personally is gay, and spends his life well beyond what we’d normally call “duty” in service for others. I know a dentist who has led numerous mission trips and has a special ministry to children when he leads teams in service. He also has a substantial supply of guns (I’ve handled and discussed most of them with him myself), likes to shoot, drives a pickup truck, and could be mistaken for a ruffian if you didn’t know him. My father, on the other hand, is an MD who was a missionary all his life, and served World War II in a conscientious objector’s camp in Canada because he refused to bear arms.

All of these people were and/or are servants of God and followers of Jesus. There isn’t one stamp for it. A gospel of masculinity is not a good replacement for a gospel of femininity or any other specialized gospel we invent. What we need is a gospel that includes all those God is calling. God will make use of our diverse gifts and personalities and smooth the rough edges where necessary.

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  1. John says:

    Thank you for this post.

  2. Terri Tippins says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. I have heard of a book called “Jesus Mean and Wild.” I have’nt read it, but it places the emphasis on Jesus chasing the money changers out of the Temple. The authors intent was to show us a different side of Jesus………..i.e. the more masculine side. He left me with the impression in this interview that men are disillusioned with Jesus being meek and mild (which is a fruit of the spirit) and that the need for Jesus to be portrayed as a “manly man” had to be recovered if we ever wanted men to feel welcome in church. There was mention made of recovering Jesus in recovering manhood. The emphasis for Jesus was not His maleness but his mission. Not His ability to take charge but His servanthood to a world that was self-serving. Sometimes I don’t think people see the BIG picture that Jesus painted for us in his Word. God Bless

  3. What we need is good news! And Jesus is that word of salvation – He is like us, both male and female, in the image of God – hence Paul’s careful use of ‘and’ in Galatians 3:28.

  4. grace says:

    Yes, I appreciate the balance and insight you brought to this issue. To characterize Christ as only masculine (strong) or feminine (apparently weak) is to limit the extent of His nature. He was victorious by laying down His life and that paradox cannot be captured by either stereotype.

  5. HB says:

    Reshaping the gospel is not the unique to advocates of the “New Jesus.” The image of “gentle Jesus meek and mild” is an equally extreme mischaracterization of Christ. Both reflect and effort to take the challenge out of Jesus, to create a comfortable Jesus who is just like “us.” The issue is not that men need the “Church.” Men need Christ just like women and children need Christ. Men are no more of a single type than women or children. The “Church” has got to come to grips with men of all types or risk becoming irrelevant except to women and children. Men have other options for following Christ, the “Church” is but one choice. If in order to find a place in the “Church” men are required to set aside their masculinity, ie., to femininize themselves then the problem that needs to be addressed is a “Church” that is afraid of men.

    Christian faith in general and the Church in particular exist to bring men and women into a individual personal relationship with God through Christ. According to Scripture that is the irreducible minimum of purpose without which either is of no more merit than any other philosophy or social organization. A variety of ministries, service included arise out of that minimum purpose being lived out in the lives of men and women who have made a personal commitment to Christ. Nevertheless, the root issue is not if one serves people. I very much enjoy firing military rifles in match competition, recreational running, golf and tennis. I also enjoy reading and a variety of more introspective pursuits. These do not make me follower or servant of Christ. In my early years of life I made a commitment to Christ as Savior and Lord. That is the basis of relationship to God that is validated by ones lifestyle. Homosexuality is just one of the ways that the witness of that commitment to Christ may be compromised. There are of course others. But absence of these issues and service to mankind is no “gospel,” for feminine or masculine or neuter it does not bring anyone into a right relationship with God.

  6. Terri Tippins says:

    Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matt 20:28

    For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:17

    And there you have it, the mission of Jesus.

    I guess most believe the proof of power is displayed in the ability to be served by others. But Gods Kingdom actually works in reverse of that mentality. To lead you must serve, to save your life you must lose it, to be strong in the Lord you must first become weak.

    The scriptures tell us “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” But, it does’nt say, Blessed are the powerful for they shall obtain power.

    Maybe some men and women don’t care for that portrayal of Jesus. Maybe, he is not percieved as mascualine (or what we perceive masculine to be) enough to be taken seriously as a leader. I believe there were probably some in the day of Jesus that disqualified his leadership on the basis that they considered him to be a bum…….ie. he did’nt have any place to lay his head at night. Some said he was a glutton, some said he was a wine drinker, and still others disqualified him on the fact that he associated with tax collectors and sinners.

    One thing that Jesus and the Church will never run short of are critics. I think (we) make more out of so-called determined masculine and feminine attributes then the Bible ever does. (We) seem to always place men and women in dualisitc positions, always opposing one another- when the Bible does not. The church is the bride of Christ, which is female. Yet, even with this fact some consider the feminine to be anti-church, anti-christ, whatever you want to call it.
    Jesus does’nt always specify by gender when He talks of his people.
    Christ calls his people; My (disciples) are those who hear my words and keep them, My (sheep) hear my voice, he tells Peter to “feed his (lambs).” He calls us (joint-heirs) with Him, and his (little children). Women are also called the (sons of God) but likewise the men to are called the (bride of Christ).

    I really believe that we are just majoring on the minors, and by doing this we become side tracked from what is really important.

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