Mature Masculinity From a Surprising Source

The question of toxic masculinity has received plenty of  attention recently and I took an initial shot at examining the idea a couple of weeks ago here. Not too long after writing that, layers continued to be revealed as I dug deeper into what it was and what it wasn’t.

Along the way, I heard my friend Todd McIntyre teach on masculinity and where he took us blew me away. He went to one of the more unlikely sources I would have imagined. He went to 1 Corinthians 13; otherwise known as “the love chapter.” How in the world was the idea of love from a passage that is typically quoted at weddings going to illustrate or unpack a picture of healthy or true masculinity?

Verse 11, that’s how. Specifically, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit was writing on love and plopped this verse right in the middle of lovey-dovey stuff. He taught on love and wrapped it up with maturity. Specifically, he wrapped it up with mature masculinity (although it is equally applicable by either gender) as he specified that he had become a “man.” A mature man loves in a way that is consistent with the first 10 verses of that chapter. In other words, a mature man:

  • Submits his gifts and abilities to others through love
  • Is patient
  • Is kind
  • Doesn’t boast and isn’t proud
  • Honors others
  • Is selfless
  • Doesn’t act in anger easily
  • Doesn’t keep track of rights and wrongs (is graceful)
  • Rejects evil and rejoices in truth
  • Always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres

That eternal description of mature manhood puts me in a place of repentance. I need to change my mind. I need to grow up. All too often, my thoughts, feelings and/or choices reflect immature love more than they do mature masculinity. All too often, I need the grace of Jesus that comes in the wake of my repentance to heal, deliver, restore and repair my broken, wounded and incomplete soul. Then I can reflect His manhood and not rely on my toxic and temporal efforts.

Working From Truth vs. Working for truth

There is a growing belief that truth is flexible and that there are evidences of what is actually right based on circumstances, feelings, compassion and preferences. Many are forming a “belief” system based on their experiences and our culture is embracing the flexibility to ensure that nobody is left out, offended, marginalized or contentious. Truth, it seems, is increasingly an archaic concept.

The problem with that is me. And you. We are too messed up to figure it out; we need a fixed point which is reliable, has stood the test of time and demands more from us than the limits of us. Truth calls us to a higher perspective and changes us in transit by stretching our capacity for actual understanding instead of contextualizing everything to our liking.

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:17-18

The definition for “futility” indicates “what is devoid of truth” and even includes the idea of idolatry. That is, to try to figure the truth of everything out from our own perspective or even the perspective of others is lacking. That inside-out production of “belief” is, by definition, working from a faulty source which his absent the thing it requires (truth). Furthermore, it’s what we all have wanted all along; to be our own little gods. It’s exactly what happened at the fall of man, as Adam and Eve opted for control over wonder and sovereignty over dependence.

Pick a Source beyond yourself and choose One with an eternal scope. For me, it’s the Bible. Written by numerous authors, yet fitting together perfectly and standing the test of time for century upon century, I’m going “all in” with the written Word of God as a reliable Source to work from.

The pursuit of Truth will bring you to uncomfortable intersections; that’s good. Wrestle and ask the Author of the Word; relate with Him and allow for Him to change you where otherwise you might attempt to judge and/or define Him. The beauty of that as a path for pursuit is that He is incredibly faithful and He is good; He loves you more than you even love yourself. And as for the left out, offended, marginalized or contentious? He loves them, too, and His plan for them is better than your well intended attempts to rescue them.

It’s Difficult to Get All of Our Stuff to the Places We Should Be

It really is easier to assimilate. It’s easier to round off the edges and fit into a culture that is tolerant of religion. After all, courteous and passive “belief” that is largely kept to yourself is not offensive as it it is futile. The problem is that passive belief isn’t belief at all; only active belief which is manifested in choices and actions is faith-based confidence.

In Matthew 28, Jesus presented a commissioning; a transfer of authority. The transfer of authority was to go into the world and make disciples. That is, go out and invite people to follow Jesus with the same authority. That necessitates a contrast between the current state and the intended state. In other words, it requires a difference between those that are commissioned and those that are invited.

The contrast is necessary, otherwise the invitation is not compelling. The presentation of an eternal King is dependent on the attributes of that King being evidence of His Kingdom. Watered-down, close-enough mutated religious attempts at a belief system with no real belief is neither compelling nor impressive. Jesus is impressive.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

The evidence of the Kingdom of God is the power of God and the power of God is dependent on the presence of God. The presence of God will be most often be seen when we are in reliance on God. We won’t rely on God from a compromised place of courtesy. We will only rely on Him when we are in over our heads as we walk in the authority of His commissioning into places and circumstances that exceed our career strategy or vacation plans.

The more stuff that we have, the more difficult it is to truly not care about anything except for the commissioning. The more comfortable that we are, the more challenging it is to accept the challenges. It’s increasingly as hard as getting a camel through the eye of a needle.

I don’t even want to write this. I certainly don’t always do it. It was easier to actually do it when there was less to tend to. It was easier to actually believe in the contrast of light and dark that exists in the jails and courthouses among people who are in desperate need of hope and healing. Most of the people I interact with aren’t desperate at all; they are well-churched, well-fed and well-rested. And so am I.

 

Invited into Extreme

We are living in extreme times where the rhetoric and divide has escalated negotiable to absolute. At the same time, absolutes are too offensive so things that used to be held as true are compromised for comfort.

In the middle of those political and societal shifts, matters of faith get chipped away at as fringe and extreme. Most people don’t want to be either fringe or extreme so the instinct is to adapt in small ways to remain relevant. Compromise is seldom drastic and the slide is usually indiscernible.

This year, and in the coming years, there will increasingly be no room for compromised faith. There will be no power anywhere except for the extreme and extreme will be easier to attain by contrast to the culture. Weird is weird and it’s increasingly weird just to profess belief, much less to zealously follow and advance the cause of Christ.

Here’s the thing; it’s His cause, not a plank on the platform of the religious right. Extreme faith will be in Him, not ideas about how Him. Reliance on Jesus for supernatural protection, provision and promotion is neither boastful nor argumentative. The argument is in our actions and our choices must be dependent on His power. Our extreme place in these extreme times is less, not more. Less of us and our ideas and more of Him through our humility, brokenness and obedience.

We don’t need better candidates or laws; we need a Church that is as authentic in the sufferings of Christ as they are in the abundance of His Kingdom. We don’t need to win; we need to die. Death to ourselves allows the anointing of His Spirit to exude from us. The compelling extreme of the Holy Spirit circumvents all theological or philosophical debates as He draws others towards Himself despite what we do to repel them.

The coming years of extreme invite us to die to ourselves for the One whom we say we believe. When He invited us to follow Him, the glory He promises is through the crucifixion He modeled. Christianity is neither a spectacle nor a program, but agreement among us in the absolute of Him. He did and does everything that needs to be done; the stuff we attempt to heap on top of His absolute is compromise no matter the intention of our souls.

Living From the Inside

The truest opportunities we face in life are life-giving. That is, when we choose to step beyond what we currently know, our senses and purpose is activated. Once we see the possibilities of “there,” we are no longer comfortable with “here” but we are intrigued enough not to care anymore.

Nelson Mandela said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

Our flaws can seemingly insulate us from any responsibility for the dreams which are within us. The fear of stepping past the hurdles of insecurities is contested by the greatness within our design. When we are aware of the potential, the compromises and excuses can no longer withhold the majesty of what we were created to be. By God’s grace, we can no longer resist that which we really were all along.

That’s one of the more intimidating things that goes along with a life of faith. What if our destiny awaits outside comfort and control of our current circumstances? What if the revelation of our greatness causes what we held as important to fade to insignificant?

That’s also one of the more attractive things that goes along with a life of faith. We are no longer bound by the visible and temporary once we come into agreement with the eternal. The illusion of control is exposed as the lie that it has always been. Letting go leaves our hands wide open to catch what was intended.

The adventure costs us everything. The first step is the scariest but the day that we quit taking steps into the unknown is the day that we exchange the call of our hearts for the cheap substitution of the American dream.

The transformation of your soul comes in the pursuit of your purpose. Your purpose was born from an eternal perspective by a God who cares more about you than He does what you think you can’t do. With agreement, the opportunity is to be different as you make a difference. He will take your insecurities and breath identity into them as you agree with Him in the eternal things.

Where There is Faith, There is Hope

Things in court had not gone like I had hoping one morning and I was engaged in beating myself up a little bit when I got jerked into the present by a crying mother and a little girl. The mom had some problems with her driving record and had been driving without a license. If convicted of driving without a license, which was the third time the had been caught, it meant a mandatory ten days in jail.

When I met with her, she had her four or five-year old daughter with her and we talked about the possibilities. The mother was done. She was completely worn out by her effort and failures. Her tears flowed generously and her sweet, angelic little daughter reached up assuredly with comfort and compassion. I cried, too.

Somehow we connected through some reference to or evidence in faith. The lady had hope in her faith even through the challenge and discouragement of being a single mom. Based on that common ground, we prayed.

Then, we re-grouped, said a prayer together and went into court. We were going in to see the toughest judge in the city and the charge isn’t exactly difficult to prove. The officer has to testify about why he pulled you over and show that you don’t have a license. Court records would establish that it was the third time. Ten days in jail seemed certain and there were no apparent legal maneuvers nor any tangible hope.

Truthfully, the judge acted out of character. This judge was incredibly tough and I couldn’t have imagined anything but jail time. Against all reason or experience, the most serious of her charges was reduced and she walked out of the courtroom with some fines but no jail time.

This was a victory against hopelessness. A victory against the scars that might have come in the heart and soul of that little girl if there had been the difficult conversation of where mommy will be for the next ten days. A victory against doubt of the very existence of or interest from a God she had been crying out to but the circumstances never quite gave way.

There are people every day who have situations you can’t fix, but you can agree with hope found in some common faith. Even if just a mustard seed where the judge is harsh and the law is clear, grace can break through.