Monday, February 27, 2012

a masterpiece

 

There has been a lot of talk recently about “masculine Christianity.” It started with John Piper, the well-known evangelical theologian, when he stated, "When I say masculine Christianity or masculine ministry or Christianity with a masculine feel, here's what I mean: Theology and church and mission are marked by an overarching godly male leadership in the spirit of Christ with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, contrite courage, risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading and protecting and providing for the community. All of which is possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus." There was more, and Mr. Piper has angered quite a few people who believe that God did NOT mean for Christianity to be masculine or have a "masculine feel." Now, I will agree that tender-hearted strength, contrite courage, risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading and protecting and providing for the community are all excellent qualities Christian leaders should possess and nurture. The only thing I fail to see in this string of descriptors is the supposedly masculinity of them. In fact, I would say that many of them describe more feminine attributes, at least according to our culture’s understanding of masculine and feminine. And herein lies the problem. Masculine and feminine are cultural concoctions. 

But gender is differentiated in the Bible, and it is true that God reveals himself in masculine terms. Jesus is a man. But was he what our culture today would consider masculine? After all, Jesus wept, cared for and healed the sick and dying, promoted peace and love, discussed the details of life, and prayed with people constantly. These are, today, considered more feminine qualities embodied in the caretaker, the nurse, the mother, the sister. In many of the glimpses we see of Jesus, it is not his overt masculinity that strikes us. It is not his masculinity on which the Biblical writers focus. Instead it is his tenderness, his care, his lovingness. He, as God made man, comes to earth to live lowly as one of us. He is not a great nobleman or king, but a Jewish carpenter. He loves those around him, teaches them, prays for them, and then, at the hands of a humanity who hates him, dies for all of us (male and female) so that we might fully embrace him one day. Jesus, son of God, is the human example we aspire to follow and emulate. Perhaps the “feminine” qualities we see in Jesus are simply one half of a whole of human qualities given to us by God. 

When we paint Christianity as strictly a masculine faith we lose the beauty and importance of feminine qualities—the feminine qualities that God instilled in humanity and that Jesus exemplified. Perhaps instead of calling for a more masculine church we should hope and pray for a more Godly church, where all of God’s beautiful qualities may be experienced, both masculine AND feminine. One without the other reveals only half of the picture. The two together are a masterpiece.

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