One of the things I find difficult about church is it can be kind of feminine in its approach. If you think about it, much of the language we use in church certainly is not the kind of language men use when they are around each other. And I’m not talking about cussing or that kind of thing. I mean the dominate theme is love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, non-judgment, and the rest. Now don’t get me wrong, those are great and important things. But what you don’t hear much in church are the other words the Bible uses such as accountability, respect, integrity, holiness, righteousness, honor, leadership and the stories of strong men doing Godly things.
It’s a shame because I believe that the language the church uses is one of the main reasons men don’t attend church. To put it simply, church doesn’t resonate with men because the message isn’t targeted to men. In most churches the message is targeted at not making waves or upsetting anyone. However, any communications major can tell you that communication is not about the message but about the audience. How you frame your message is even more important than what you have to say because improper framing means your message will be missed. And men miss the message because it’s not framed to meet them where they are.
But let me share a secret with you: Jesus is the strongest man I’ve ever known. Let me share with you – especially the men reading this (or the women in their lives who will share it with them!) – a Jesus you may not have met at your local church.
Jesus the Construction Worker
Scripture tells us that Jesus was a carpenter, but a carpenter in that day was more like a construction worker who performed multiple tasks. Jesus wasn’t the guy laying Pergo in your kitchen. He was the guy cutting rock and placing it as foundations to King Herod’s fortress. He moved large timbers from Cyprus and cut them for use. One definition says a carpenter in 1st century Palestine was, “an artificer in stone, iron, and copper, as well as in wood.” Another definition described the word carpenter as the equivalent of our word “craftsman.” I see Jesus as a guy with strong hands and forearms, highly skilled, and certainly not a wilting daisy of any sort. He was a blue-collar guy who worked hard for living by the sweat of his brow.
Jesus the Leader
Anyone in leadership knows that the key to leadership is actually leading. That means you must have a very strong will, a tremendous sense of vision and mission, the ability to get people to buy into your vision and mission, and the unique ability to take the slings and arrows of your detractors and still drive on toward your goals no matter the obstacles. Jesus was that kind of leader.
Jesus clearly understood His mission – nothing was going to stand in the way of him accomplishing it. You were either with Him or not. Everyone was offered the opportunity to partner with Him; most chose not to follow. Yet, Jesus never fretted over that. He was laser focused. He poured Himself into those who did follow, teaching them everything He knew, preparing them for their time. He encouraged, rebuked, disciplined, trained, managed, and lead His people. He had the right touch with everyone, whether it be a problem-child such as Peter or a woman at a well. Jesus was the best leader the world has ever known.
Jesus the Activist
Imagine you knew that your denominational leadership was doing something completely wrong and against God’s will. Would you have the guts to go to their headquarters and call them a brood of vipers, accuse them of keeping people from God, and basically telling them they were going to hell? That’s what Jesus did in His time!
If you study scripture what you see is Jesus being gentle, loving, and forgiving of the ordinary sinner (adulteress, tax collectors, Samaritan woman, etc…) but incredibly harsh with the religious leaders. The reason is obvious (leaders are held to a higher standard than others) but Jesus was anything but gentle with them. He took them head on over their traditions, their lack of love and care for the people, and their pride and arrogance. That’s why they hated Him – Jesus attacked them in truth and publicly showed them for what they were. That took a special kind of courage because Jesus knew they’d kill Him for it.
Which one of us is strong enough to do that?
Jesus the Rabbi
We all look up to our pastors or priests as people of integrity and spiritual leadership. But none I have met can match Jesus in terms of self-confidence, humility, personal inner strength, or loyalty. Jesus could turn the other cheek. Jesus could forgive His enemies and pray for those persecuting Him. Jesus could forgive as if it never happened. Jesus loved the unlovable. Jesus showed mercy where it wasn’t deserved and grace that wasn’t earned. Do you understand how much strength and power it takes to do that? We can’t even control our anger when someone cuts us off in traffic! Jesus had complete control of His emotions, ensuring everyone with whom He dealt was treated exactly as they should have been.
Jesus the Warrior
If you’ve not watched the movie The Passion you need to. The scene where Jesus is scourged with whips, forced to walk with his cross to Golgotha, and then crucified is perhaps the most gut-wrenching scene of any movie ever made. Jesus is nearly beaten to death. By the time He gets to Calvary He’s nearly dead. He is offered Gall mixed with a painkiller of some sort to deaden his senses to what he’s about to suffer – crucifixion. Jesus refuses the drink.
Now think about that for a moment. You’re nearly beaten to death with you skin flailed off your body and your bones exposed. You’ve just carried a super heavy cross beam through the streets and up a hill in that condition. And they’re about to NAIL YOU TO A CROSS. Perhaps just a little sip of the stuff wouldn’t hurt! If it were you or me we’d drink the entire cup!
But Jesus knew that He had to experience the pain of taking on the sins of the world – a pain that would include a momentary separation from God the Father, which was much more painful than the physical torture itself. So instead of deadening the pain He embraced it. Talk about sucking it up! None of us could do it.
Jesus the Savior
You and I put Jesus on that cross due to our sins. He lived the life we are supposed to live and He died the death we were supposed to die (okay, I stole that line from Timothy Keller, but it’s true!). Would you be strong enough to forgive those who put you on a cross like that?
You see, the Jesus I know is not a wussy. The Jesus I know is an absolute stud. The guy is truly a man’s man and He challenges us as men to really step it up and be the man God created us to be. It takes incredible strength to die to our flesh and be obedient to Christ. It takes courage to transform into the likeness of Christ. It takes personal fortitude to endure the insults and offenses of those who ridicule us for our choice to follow Jesus. And it takes humility to admit that we must become less and Jesus must become more in our lives.
Sometimes our churches miss the mark in trying to communicate that to men. But there is a way around that issue. Men that are in the church, LEAD! Tell your buddies about the Jesus you know not the one you see all weak and weepy in the paintings. Share how Jesus gives you strength and power, and knowledge, and wisdom, and understanding so you can be one of His warriors in our spiritual battle against Satan! Explain to the men you know that they must choose a side in this war and they may as well choose the winning side! And most of all, explain how love is not weakness; it is the source of all Jesus’ power.