I want to give a shout out to all of the men who have been reading these posts, specifically the male pastors who have offered words of praise and encouragement for my work on this blog. This one’s for you – because I think if we are to heal as a society, we need to minister to men as well as women.
Ok, guys, imagine this: You get to walk the earth with Jesus. Better yet, you get to be one of the twelve disciples. You’ve followed Jesus around for three years, seeing him do all kinds of amazing things. Earlier, you marched with him through the streets of Jerusalem while all of Israel had a party. And now you’re settling down to celebrate a big feast day together.
The end of the meal has come. You’re full of good food and even better conversation. Then Jesus stands up and begins to disrobe. Yes, you read that right. He’s getting naked. And now he’s bending down to take off your shoe. Naked. He says he’s going to wash your feet. Naked.
Do you let him?
It’s an interesting question to pose to men in this Western culture. I can just hear half a dozen baritones screaming “Hell, no!” and picture several plaid shirts bolting for the door. But this was the reality for Christ’s disciples. While we can’t be 100% certain that Jesus took it all off, it’s very likely that he did. (And that towel probably wasn’t around his waist, either.) It was an act of great intimacy executed for great purpose: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8).
In other words, if we want to have a powerful, redemptive, Spirit-filled life in Christ, we have to allow him to have some intimacy with us.
Unfortunately, American culture has a problem with intimacy. It’s become sexualized, to the point where even emotional and spiritual intimacy is viewed as a trespass against Westernized masculinity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard young men express a strong desire to grow deeper in their faith, then wonder in the same breath what it really means to be “a man of God” – as if the requirements for Christian men are somehow different than they are for everyone else. There’s a reason for that. Westernized masculinity is at complete odds with achieving communion with Christ. And some ministers have tried very, very hard to reconcile the two. They’ve cherry-picked verses out of Joshua, Judges and the Psalms to make the “godly man” into a stone-fisted warrior. They’ve told men how to control their wives and dominate their children, and have coached them to stand tall and proud during worship because weeping and kneeling are somehow feminine and undignified. The result is a bunch of men who look well-collected around the altar, but are inwardly starved for the Savior’s embrace.
I’m going to say something potentially controversial again: You’ll never find the Spirit through masculinity. Jesus said that all who fall on him, the cornerstone, will be broken (Matthew 21:44; Luke 20:18). Falling is an act of surrender. Brokenness is the zenith of humility and submission. Both are required for taking the Spirit into one’s innermost being. Neither are permitted in American masculinity.
I think this is why men get so confused in the church. They’re told to carry themselves like kings, because everyone is supposed to be submitting to them. Except for Christ. Men are to submit to Christ. But not like a woman submits to Christ, with all that emotional weeping and stuff; that’s improper. Just be like Jesus; he was a real man. Even though he wept (oops). And when he got naked in front of his disciples. Well, you know, that was Jesus. We shouldn’t do everything he did. Tell you what, in the name of preserving masculinity, we’ll make this a two-party system: Men will represent God’s authority, and women will represent Christ’s humility.
And then we wonder why men say they struggle to experience God or have little desire to worship. Could it be that the church’s attempts to preserve a bizarre cultural concept of masculinity is actually robbing men of a divine encounter with their Savior?
Men, I urge you as a loving sister in Christ, please examine our culture’s definition of masculinity in light of the scriptures. Not just the few cherry-picked scriptures quoted by conservative ministers, but ALL the scriptures. Jesus craves intimacy with you. Not weird, effeminate, sexual intimacy, but transformative, vibrant, soul-breathing intimacy. He wants to be one with you in spirit. To get there requires some brokenness. Brokenness isn’t listed as a trait on any man card. It isn’t dignified, popular, sexy, or self-composed. But it is a place of strength and power. HIS strength and power.
So there’s Jesus. Naked. With a bowl and a towel, ready to wash your feet. Ready to commune with you. Do you let him? Or do you seek comfort at the altar of masculinity?