We need to pause for a moment and get something straight. It is time we get real about some truths facing our communities and our churches. Our children need us to man up. The difficulties and challenges they face on a daily basis from the evil one (1 Peter 5:8) is enough to destroy them. In fact, if we look at the numbers, many of our children have already been hurt in ways that they should have never experienced. The good news is, however, that there is a remedy to help heal much of the hurt that has already been caused and prevent further injury to our children.
Authentic manhood demands that our students and children see men who are authentic in their faith. In too many instances, issues of faith have been left to the mother or grandmother and students have not seen men who possess and live out an authentic faith. The message that the leaders in our churches and communities have in turn sent to these students is that a) faith is really not that important and b) faith is not an all-encompassing aspect of our life. The danger in this, and in the false dichotomy of sacred and secular that too many men embody, is that we unknowingly encourage students to find value and purpose in things, people, and relationships that are reserved for a relationship with Christ. What this means, then, is that too often our students end up settling for far less than what Christ desires of them because they have seen this modeled before them by the men in their lives. Students and children desperately need to see a generation of men who are just as passionate about their faith as they are their sports. Am I just using hyperbole to make a point? Do I really think men should be as concerned about their spiritual walk as they are sports? Is that type of passion not reserved for clergy alone? No! I am not using hyperbole. Yes, I think men should be as concerned, and absolutely not is that passion reserved for clergy alone. That type of thinking is what got us to the point in which we find ourselves. Our children need us to man up! One of the reasons that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world is that Muslim men take their faith extremely seriously. (Of course, another reason they are growing so rapidly is because the average Muslim family has 27.3 kids and no dog). Yes, the parenthetical statement was hyperbole. However, the truth remains that our unwillingness to be authentic in our faith has led to a feminized view of Christianity among many of our students that is not merely unhealthy, but it is also heretical!
Authentically living out our faith will lead us to correct another area in which we need to “man up.” Our children and students need to know that the men (dads, youth pastors, male role models) in their lives love them out of the relationship they have with them. Men, too often, tend to base the love and value that we place on others on their performance rather than the relationship. Before you get all kind of upset and disagree with me, chill. The sad reality is that we do. Yes, this type of thinking has become ingrained in our culture, but that does not make it acceptable. The entire concept of a relationship with Jesus was countercultural to the culture in which He lived, yet He and His disciples taught that very thing. As men, it is imperative that we begin to communicate and convey our love to our sons, daughters, and the children and students we are called to serve out of our relationships with them rather than their performances. Our sons need to know that their dads love them even if he does not make the football team. Our daughters need to know that their dads will love them regardless of her outward physical appearance. We MUST show our children that our love is based solely on the fact they are our children. Too many young men grow up thinking that they have to perform a certain way or achieve a certain standard in order to gain their father’s approval, acceptance, and love. Too many young ladies grow up thinking that they must dress a certain way or act a certain way to garner the love of a man. The time has come for you and me to “man up” and love based on relationship and not performance. Our sons should look at us as their heroes who they want to emulate and imitate. Our daughters should look for a man who will love her like her father rather than a man who will rescue her from her father.
Think about what a performance-based love taught to our children does to our Christian faith. It destroys it. Such a “love” inadvertently expresses to our children and students that the only way such a holy God could ever love them is if they perform a certain way. In other words, communicating such a performance-based love to our children and students actually empties the cross of its power by telling students that they must fix their own lives prior to experiencing God’s love. The cross tells us the exact opposite! The most often-quoted verse in the Bible (John 3:16) screams God’s love to us. Romans 5:8 tells us that even when we failed to perform to His standards God not only loved us, but He proved it! This is completely antithetical to our culture. Our world so desperately does not want to accept and embrace this truth that the NCAA passed what is known as the “Tebow Rule.” We must “man up” because our children and students can no longer be hurt by the damaging effects of a performance-based love.
Authentic faith and relationship-based love flow beautifully into another area in which we must “man up.” Our children and students need to see real manhood modeled before them. I am not one to live in the past, but there was a time when you could watch television and see traditional Judeo-Christian values built into the programming. Such is not the case any longer, and unfortunately, our kids are the ones who have suffered the most in this divorce from truth. Too many of the media models of manhood our children and students see today are either overly degrading to women or overly feminized themselves. Our children and students need to see real men, not some 35-year-old wanna be gang member, trap star, making music videos in rented cars promoting illicit sex and rampant drug use. Nor do they need to see guys wearing skinny jeans and more make-up than their mothers. Our students and children need to see real men who authentically live out their faith, genuinely love their families, and understand, appreciate, and do a hard day’s work.
I have been in student ministry for almost 15 years. I am beyond tired of seeing young people experience (and bring on themselves) pain that they were never meant to experience. I am tired of seeing young men lose themselves in their work or their play to such a degree that they miss the abundant life that God has for them. I am tired of seeing young women endure broken relationship after broken relationship, emotional scar after emotional scar, searching for a love that too few ever experienced at home. I am tired of seeing dreams ruined and lives broken because our young people search for what we, too often, failed to provide for them. The time has come. The cost is too great. Lives of our children and students are at stake. We must “man up.” They need us.