It makes me weep when I think of the staggering crisis of manhood in the culture. There is hardly a negative sociological data point that doesn’t have its root in the failure of men to lives as faithful husbands and responsible fathers. Leaders across the political and ideological spectrum have decried the problem.
To combat the staggering crisis, a manhood movement has arisen in the church. I’m deeply grateful for the work of their leaders and for the curricula and conferences that have called men to follow Christ. I’ve been personally challenged by organizations like Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, Men’s Fraternity and others. I’m thankful for the good fruit of these ministries in families around the world.
But there is a strain of the manhood movement that troubles me. It’s a version of masculinity that makes Jesus look more like William Wallace than the King of Kings. As my wise colleague Joe Carter says, we don’t need a “Jesus who strolls like the Duke, squints like Clint Eastwood, and snarls like Dick Cheney. We don’t need Jesus the cagefighter; we just need Jesus the Savior.”[i] Pastors, as they call their men to faithfulness, need to understand the difference.
The answer to a confused manhood culture is not more chest-beating and MMA, but a very real picture of what a man of God looks like. Young men need to understand that courage is not defined by the size of their gun collections or by the ruggedness of their hobbies. Courage is defined by the willingness to humbly and boldly follow the risen Christ.
Some point to Jesus’s courageous overthrow of the temple marketplace as an example of the sort of fiery, aggressive, impulsive instincts every man should nurture. But before we get our own temple rage on, we need to be reminded that this incident wasn’t a spontaneous burst of masculinity, but a purposeful fulfilling of Jesus’s mission. Jesus was claiming his right to be worshiped as King, cleansing the temple for His Father. This was the next event in salvation history, a necessary move as Jesus made His way to the cross. It was in the temple where Jesus demonstrated His lordship. His rage at the religious profiteers was a demonstration of kingdom justice. Their greed preyed on the poor and prostituted the sacredness of God’s house. Even as He brandished the whips, Jesus was in full control of His emotions. He knew exactly what He was doing.
From this we may ascertain a secondary lesson that sometimes indignation and force are justified. But that’s not the primary message of the text. What’s more, Jesus is no sinful son of Adam. While anger may be a legitimate emotion, raw displays of power are rarely justified. They are almost always carnal. Put simply, I am not Jesus and you are not Jesus. Our anger is always, even on our best days, clouded by our fallen condition. To create out of the temple incident a template for manhood is exegetical folly.