So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (1 Colossians 1:15)
Everything I do is always a work in progress; shoot, I am a work in progress. This is why every speaking event is also about listening, every teaching opportunity involves just as much learning, and every consulting trip comes with as many take-aways for me as I leave behind.
Much of the content I provided in Tampa was presented so that I could hear myself say it out loud, then the questions I prepared for the break-out groups were framed in a way designed to help me to research what Christian men are thinking.
The 60 men who attended were a great sample set, representing a microcosm of Twenty-first Century faith. We had a handful in their 20’s, a good group from the 30’s, then a few more in their 40’s. The largest representation covered ages 50-65; then there were a few guys who are retired. Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Boomers.
IN HIS IMAGE: In Session One we explored the idea of what it means to be made in the image of God, then we talked about it in small groups.
My first small group question was simple: Think of a word that describes the ideal of “manliness” from our culture. Go around the circle several times until each person has said at least three responses. The words that cropped up the most included driven, self-reliant, proud, leader, self-confident, aggressive, authority, in charge, football fan, warrior, macho, winner, fixes stuff, provider, rugged, hardy, potent, likes his toys…
Here’s the second question: Now think of a word that describes Jesus. Go around again, at least three words each. The descriptors that came up the most? Compassionate, humble, loving, healer, friend, self-giving, servant leader, kind, strong, faithful, teacher, beautiful, counselor, prince of peace, humble, full of grace and truth.
Here’s what’s interesting: I didn’t pre-load these questions; I didn’t offer suggestions to get people headed in a particular direction; I just asked. Yet the consistency of the disparity was unvaried in all ten discussion groups.
What on earth, I wonder, accounts for such a huge difference between our cultural ideals for “manliness” and the qualities that characterize Jesus? And (not only interesting but troubling), why is there such a strong tendency to equate “Christian manliness” with the first list rather than the second?
Is it because we are more comfortable with the idea of recreating God “in the image of us” than we are with the idea of backing away from our cultural ideals of manliness and humbly following Jesus?
- What on earth, I wonder, accounts for such a huge difference between our cultural ideals for “manliness” and the qualities that characterize Jesus?
- Why is there such a strong tendency to equate “Christian manliness” with the first list rather than the second?
- Is it because we are more comfortable with the idea of recreating God “in the image of us” than we are with the idea of backing away from our cultural ideals of manliness and humbly following Jesus?
These are the kinds of questions that are shaping my thinking and my writing as a follower of Jesus. I don’t want to say there’s a lot of wrong teaching out there… so much as I want to get involved in the conversation, and I want to help American Christian Men recalibrate what it means to live as Jesus followers, created in the image of God.
In love, and because of love – DEREK