Jesus Ain’t No Wimp?

Warning…this will be somewhat rantish. And, it might offend some of you. So, you’ve been warned. Oh, and this should be read in your best “Blue Collar Comedy” accent.

Have you heard the news? Jesus ain’t no wimp! Jesus was a tough Son of a God. That Dude overturned tables, cracked whips, took some fierce beatings, and had no problem telling people that they were damned to an eternity in hell. Jesus had some really strong and harsh words for the lukewarm religious types…pretty sure he told them they were destined for an eternity in hell too. Jesus had no problem telling people that they were horrible, awful, wretched, and sin-filled. “Meek? Mild? As if!” Yep, Jesus was pretty much the original Macho Man. I know this because I just saw a special on the Christian TV network that told me so.

Did I get your attention? (oh, at this point you can drop the “Blue Collar” accent…unless you are truly enjoying it!)

Well, lately (in addition to what I just viewed on one of the religious TV stations), I’ve noticed this interesting trend within some more conservative/fundamental Christian movements to no longer focus on Jesus’ love, compassion, patience, kindness, grace, mercy, and love in order to focus on the few passages in which Jesus really “kicks ass” (pardon my french, but if these sorts of words offend you, you probably wouldn’t read my blog…unless you are my mother…so, sorry mom).

You see, we don’t have to embrace the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) because Jesus was a man’s man.

The accusation is that the Church has, for too long, focused on Jesus’ love and compassion. And, therefore, the Church has produced a bunch of namby-pamby, wimpy, girlie men who wouldn’t know the difference between a Hemi and a regular V8 engine…or the difference between Bobby and Terry LaBonte…or the difference between a Purdey, a Remington, or a Winchester.

Therefore, movements have been launched within certain churches to make Church men = real men. (start the “Blue Collar” accent again) And, the definition of a real man isn’t necessarily one who loves, honors, cares for, provides for, and protects his wife and family. Nope, a real man seems to be one who participates in MMA, hunts stuff, loves war, loves America (God Bless America!), loves NASCAR (but not IRL), chews tobacco but doesn’t smoke, dresses swear words up in Sunday clothes, doesn’t dance, doesn’t drink adult beverages (but guzzles down Mt. Dew and Red Bull), hates “the gays”, oh, and of course…hates musicals, and definitely doesn’t cry when watching movies like “Courageous“!  (stop accent)

So, because Jesus wasn’t a wimp…it is somehow un-Christian to be a less-than-manly-man. A man is weak if he makes himself vulnerable. A man is weak if he shows any emotion other than rage and anger (but only directed at the TV when sports calls are blown…and by sports…of course I mean football). A man is weak if his wife isn’t silent and submissive. A man is weak if he isn’t the sole provider for his family. A man is weak if he doesn’t make all of the important decisions for his family.  A man is weak if _______.

And, to be honest, it all kind of makes me sick. I mean, I’m all for “doing whatever it takes” to get “men” into the church. I’m all about getting men to take their faith seriously. I’m all for “Wild at Heart” men’s retreats where guys go play paintball, whitewater rafting, skiing, hiking, fishing, etc and enjoy the fellowship of other men who are trying to figure out this whole faith thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to picture my Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt as much as the next guy. And, I’m not one to say that Jesus was a wimp…the whole journey to the Cross…yeah, that’s not wimpy stuff.

But, to basically dismiss the love, compassion, mercy, and tenderness of Jesus in order to focus on a few passages in which Jesus “kicks some serious backside” (I cleaned it up, just for you, mom) really overlooks what seems to be so central to the message of Jesus. I’m pretty sure Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “love God”. And, he followed that by saying something along the lines that the next most important thing was to “love one another.”

I guess I just find myself sitting here thinking, “Self, I don’t get it.”

Why do some want to focus on the “hardcore” attributes of Jesus and overlook His great love, mercy, peace, and compassion? I mean, think about the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery…Jesus wasn’t harsh…Jesus wasn’t tough…Jesus was kind, compassionate, caring, and loving.

I guess the bottom line is this…I’m a wimpy man…and I’m okay with that.

Maybe what men…and people in general…need is a more balanced approach to Jesus. Did Jesus say some tough and harsh things? Sure. Was Jesus filled with love, grace, mercy, patience, kindness, etc? Of course. Can we find a way to paint a more holistic picture of Jesus? I sure hope so.

Exclusive or Inclusive?

So, Emily and I just finished watching The Social Network. Yes, I fully realize that we are way behind the times. However, to my defense, I did read the book The Accidental Billionaires, so watching the film wasn’t necessarily on the top of my list (being that I already knew what was going to happen…same reason I will NEVER watch the Titanic…I already know what will happen…seems like a waste of time…and the soundtrack is horrible).

While watching the film (as well as while reading the book), I was struck by the original intent of Facebook to be an exclusive endeavor. At first, it would be a “Harvard” thing. Then, as it became apparent that it was a popular success, it began to spread among the Ivy League schools. I remember when facebook first spread to school’s like Indiana University, Purdue University, Notre Dame, even Ball State University. Former youth ministry students would talk about the site…say things like, “Oh man, you should really get on facebook. But, you can’t because you’re old.” The exclusivity almost made it desirable…because I couldn’t have it…I wanted it.

Eventually, facebook’s exclusivity became an all-inclusive endeavor…to the point where old guys like me could log on and create an account…without an invite, without a particularly exclusive e-mail account. And, this social media website has been successful in helping people connect with friends…old, new, and everything in-between.

While thinking about the original exclusive nature of facebook and it’s now inclusive nature, I found myself thinking about the Church. Is the modern Church an exclusive or inclusive institution?

Now, the majority of folks within the Church would probably defend the Church as being inclusive…but is it?

As a United Methodist, I’m reminded of how we are called to have “open hearts, open minds, and open doors”. But, do we have limits to our openness?

Are we open to people who have different thoughts on heaven and hell…sin and salvation…human sexuality…creation…evolution…abortion…drinking…dancing…and all of the other hot button issues that are out there?

Many would say “yes”. But, are we open to those who are different only with the intention of “saving” them and making them “exactly like us”. Or do we simply accept them and love them “as is”?

I’m pretty sure when Jesus called us to “love others”, this was a statement promoting inclusiveness in the Body. If you investigate the life and ministry of Jesus, he seemed to continually reach out to those who would have been excluded from the fellowship and invited them in.

Sometimes, I’m convinced that our tendency to be exclusive is born out of either arrogance (that we have it all figured out) or ignorance (that we simply are too dull and dense to realize God just might work beyond our understanding). Sometimes, I wonder if we are trying to “save” people who aren’t really in need of saving (you know, like how my Baptist friend are always trying to save me because I’m a heathen Methodist)???

Are we attempting to include the excluded? Or are we trying to put up walls between “us” and “them”?

Are we exclusive or inclusive? If we are exclusive, why? If we are exclusive, how can we become inclusive? Are there limits to inclusiveness?

 “37 He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself’.” (Matthew 22:37-39)