Yesterday I wrote a post called “His Face Never Changes” in which I called attention to the male tendency to mask our weaknesses by maintaining a calm, cool demeanor. “Never let ’em see you sweat” is the facade that many men use to gain social capital with other men. Unfortunately many Christian perspectives on masculinity do not make a break from this fleshly commitment. The current Christian emphasis does not work toward, or even allow, a ‘gospel vulnerability’ that learns to find strength in weakness (click here to see what I mean). Instead most Christian teaching joins right in, accentuating a kind of “John Wayne/Don Draper” approach to Christianity. Don’t cry. Don’t admit weakness. Don’t admit failure. Never let ’em see you sweat. Get stuff done for the kingdom. Sadly, this works for a while. It is very appealing. It sounds good: Let’s go kick some butt for Jesus. But, in the end, this emphasis unwittingly legitimates masculine anger, pride, and arrogance. It also affirms shame and guilt as a proper motivational tool. Currently, I feel that this perspective is causing a lot of damage to churches, families, and to the cause of the gospel. There is much fire, but very little heat.
We simply can’t address a “secular” brand of pride, anger, and masculine arrogance by replacing it with a “Christian-ized” brand of pride, anger, and masculine arrogance. That is not the gospel. And it is not masculinity. It’s a deformed version of masculinity. We Christian men desperately need to recover Jesus’ gospel emphasis on strength that is gained through weakness. “Blessed are the poor…” (Matthew 5:1-12); “If any man wishes to gain his life, he must lose it…” (Matthew 16:25); “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (James 4:6-10).”
One helpful book that I have read this past year has been very helpful along these lines – “Leading with a Limp” by Dan Allendar. Dr. Allendar points out that “God’s criteria for choosing leaders runs counter to conventional wisdom. Our culture equates strength with effectiveness, but God favors leaders who know the value of brokenness. They’re not preoccupied with protecting their image, they are undaunted by chaos and complexity, they are ready to risk failure in moving an organization from what is to what should be. God chooses leaders who aren’t deceived by the myths of power and control, but who realize that God’s power is found in brokenness.”
Although this is a book specifically geared toward “leadership” it has given me invaluable help in developing gospel perspectives in my own personal walk with Christ as well as informing my ministry to men. In the meantime, I pray that the Spirit of Christ will correct the current Christian emphasis of overt ‘anger’ fueled masculinity that is presently hindering the proper ministry of male leadership in our churches. I also pray that we men learn how to come out from behind the fig leaf protection of “Don Draper cool” so that our shame can be healed and our hearts strengthened with the courage of gospel love and self-sacrifice.