Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Jesus for men

Jesus is tenderly calling you home
Calling today, calling today,
Why from the sunshine of love will you roam,
Farther and farther away?

Jesus is waiting, O come to Him now,
Waiting today, waiting today,
Come with your sins, at His feet lowly bow;
Come, and no longer delay.

Jesus is pleading, O list to His voice,
Hear Him today, hear Him today,
They who believe on His Name shall rejoice;
Quickly arise and away.

I don’t think it’s coincidental that this hymn was written by a woman. It reflects a very feminine view of Jesus. This is Jesus seen through a woman’s eyes.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. We’d expect a woman to see Jesus through a woman’s eyes. That’s only natural. Mind you, I happen to think this hymn is theologically deficient, but that’s an argument for another day.

Male hymnodists, especially Victorians, could also write hymns in this dainty vein. They could psych themselves into that mindset.

But as a rule, it doesn’t work for a man to see Jesus through a woman’s eyes. That’s off-putting. Men need to relate to Jesus as men, not women.

Now, there’s some value in both sexes learning how to perceive things the way the opposite sex perceives them. Being able to assume that viewpoint is important in marriage.

But I’m dealing with male Christian piety. Christian men ought to love Jesus. But what does that mean? How should men love Jesus?  What’s the frame of reference?

Actually, there’s nothing unusual about men loving other men. That’s perfectly normal and commonplace. Paradigm-cases include fathers loving sons. Sons loving fathers. Brothers loving each other.

Another example is male friendship. Players on a high school football team may form strong emotional bonds. A junior high or high school football team can function like a surrogate family.

Men in combat units may form strong emotional bonds. A policeman and his (male) partner may become best friends.

There’s nothing the least bit “gay” about this type of male bonding.

The Bible itself has examples of fatherly love, filial love, brotherly love, and amicable love. The Bible also uses these examples as theological metaphors.

One way for Christian men to foster their love for Jesus is to think of Jesus as a big brother or a best friend. Of course, Jesus is far more than that. But that’s a start. Right now I’m stressing masculine models of affection for other men. And Scripture itself utilizes these models–as well as other models.

We can also reflect on Jesus’ friendship with the twelve disciples. For three years straight, they were inseparable. They did everything together. Went everywhere together. Ate together. Slept together. Slept out in the open, under starry skies. Huddled by a makeshift campfire for warmth on a chilly desert night. Or sweated on hot dusty roads.

They went through everything together. The highs and the lows. They were loved for his sake and they were hated for his sake. Where he was loved, they were loved. Where he was hated, they were hated. 

Moreover, when Jesus called the disciples, it’s unlikely that he was calling perfect strangers. He probably knew most of them from childhood, growing up together in fishing communities along the banks of the Sea of Galilee. Childhood playmates. Adjacent villages within walking distance of each other–up and down the shoreline. They went fishing together. Swimming together. Caught lizards. Surveyed the countryside from the surrounding hills.

They probably came of age together. Attended marriages and funerals together. Shared the mournful death of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Mothers dying in childbirth.

As boys they probably went to Jerusalem on extended family pilgrimages. Explored the city together.

That’s why the Ascension is such a wrenching experience for them. They are losing him. Like the untimely death of your brother or your best friend. The separation is devastating. In this life they will never see him again.

Of course, you and I lack that direct experience. But even though you and I weren’t one of the twelve disciples, we can see Jesus through the eyes of his disciples, as if we were one of the Twelve. When we read the Gospels, we see Jesus through the vivid recollection of those who saw him, heard him, walked with him, and talked with him. 

When we read the Gospels, we eavesdrop on these ancient scenes. Overheard these ancient conversations. We step into a time machine. We travel back in time to Jesus’s time. We stand where the disciples stood.

We can also mediate on the sonship of Christ. Christ is the incarnate Son of God. That’s a masculine role. More than a role. Every man is someone’s son.

Of course, his sonship differs from our sonship. From how we relate to our earthly fathers. And his filial relationship with the Father differs from our filial relationship with the Father, through him. But there are similarities as well as differences.

Jesus can help us understand what it means to be a son. What it means to have a father.

In a fallen world, some sons are a great disappointment to their fathers–while some fathers are a great disappointment to their sons. Jesus can bring healing to our damaging experience by modeling the exemplary Son of the exemplary Father.

The example of Christ can show men how to be better fathers, sons, and brothers. And that prepares us to be better husbands as well. He teaches us how to be loving men, beginning with himself.


  1. As a former infantryman myself, and as a digester of historical examples of leaders who inspired devotion in their followers, so that men were willing to die for him and his cause, when it came to teaching Christian men how appropriate it is to love Jesus my first thought was that perhaps Jesus was best interpreted to them as a charismatic commanding general.

    But that thought led me quickly to the Davidic type of Christ, who was the king (and military leader) of the OT people of God. Why settle for a soldier, when the Bible itself gives you the complete metaphor? Following David's own route from soldier to statesman (who never quite gives up his sword) is also a way for modern, western believers to get a little closer to the reality of Christ as King.

    And yet there's more. Our centuries-old catechisms have already fleshed out this whole dynamic for us--there's no reason to reinvent the wheel. Jesus is the Mediator: the King, and the Prophet, and the Priest. He's all that; plus he's honestly, warmly personal to his least subordinate, even though he has perfect knowledge of the man and his faults. No politician or generalissimo is Christ, pretending to relate to the private from Tupelo, when he can barely recognize his dialect.

    The Lord Jesus is truly worthy of a manly, non-sentimental, non-sexual devotion; which is really nothing less than a pure love.