I’ve been occupied for a while. This morning I’ve been catching up on articles and blogs that I missed when they first came out. I’ve been saving them for the quiet coffee moments, which are sometimes few and far between.
Some of these articles have been quite good. But some have been very disappointing. Take this one, for example.
Normally, I would give an article like this one a raspberry and simply move on. But it has been floating around and getting some attention. It also gives me an opportunity to perhaps cause someone to think a bit before they speak.
Words mean something. We can hurt and drive away, or we can gather, heal and restore. Since we are first of all Christians, and second of all, pastors, we should take a great deal of care with how we use words. I do not believe it is adequate to simply say, “Well, people shouldn’t be so sensitive” and ignore the cries of those who are crushed and broken under our foolish tongues.
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Mat 12:36 KJV)
18 Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death,
19 So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “Was I not joking?” (Pro 26:18-19)
We may dismiss and cover over idle words, but our Lord certainly does not. So it would do us well to think about the words that we use.
I do not wish to spend a lot of time on this article, but there were three things that struck me as I read it.
First, the goal of the article, as stated in the title, is not a biblical goal.
The title is “On getting and keeping masculine men in church.” Notice, however, that the author nowhere quotes any scripture, but simply assumes that this is a goal that every church should have. But is it a biblical goal?
Is “masculine men” a biblical category? Are we speaking now of a third gender? Male, female, and masculine men? I don’t believe that the author had this in mind, but he certainly did not define what he meant, nor did he go to the scripture to justify his goal. Why masculine men, and not just men? Are there now two categories of men, one of whom we want in the church and the other we just want to go to hell? What about women? Are they OK if they accompany men? What if they come alone?
He seems to imply that a large ratio of women in the church is a problem. As if they are OK as long as there aren’t too many of them. But what if there are 30% masculine men, 20 percent effeminate men, and 50% women. Would that be OK. How do we decide who to put into which category?
I would like to remind the author that Paul preached the gospel to Lydia and her friends down by the river, and didn’t once bemoan the lack of “masculine men”.
The second problem somewhat follows the first – the elimination of “effeminate men” as qualified for church office.
1 Timothy 3 has been ignored by the church for decades, but now we seem to simply be inventing our own categories. “Effeminate men”. I hate this word. Really, really hate it. It is the word of school-yard bullies, ignorant cretins, loudmouth, abusive men. I hate it.
He seems to define it as someone with “effeminate characteristics” or a “high voice”. Once again, no biblical text to back up his statement. He simply states it. Now we are left to define for ourselves what that means.
“I don’t like his necktie. I don’t like his pastimes. I don’t like his voice. I don’t like how he walks. I don’t like how he gestures.” He has now given an excuse to every hardhearted man to ignore the preaching of the word if the pastor’s voice is too high. Is this really where we want to go?
There is always danger whenever we condemn someone apart from scripture. There is always the leaven of Pharisees involved whenever we say that someone has a quality or a personality that God condemns. Whenever we go outside of scripture for our ethics or our ecclesiology, we become authoritarian and oppressive.
We could ask the same question that God asked Moses. “Who made man’s mouth?” Who are YOU to tell God that he made this person wrong. His voice is too high, God. You made him wrong. Effeminate. You made a mistake.
What appalling gall! I hate that word. Hate it.
Before anyone quotes that King James translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9 at me and condemns anyone with a high voice to hell, let me remind you all that this is not what that word means. Paul is talking about immoral sex, not personalities, voice frequency, or mannerisms.
Now here is where the hatred of our words come in. Suppose there is a young man whom God loves. God made him with a beautiful voice with a high register. Perhaps he sings like an angel. Now comes this author, speaking on his own authority, without any backing from scripture, denying him a place in the kingdom of God. “You cannot be a pastor, because God gave you a high voice.”
You are a second class citizen. In fact, we don’t even want you in church. We want 50% “masculine men”, not you with the high voice. Why not cast away the left handed people, those who have red hair and those who are too short as well?
Third, he calls women and children the property of a man.
In the context of touching a woman or a child, which the author forbids, he writes,
When you refrain from touching another man’s stuff, you subtlety communicate your respect for him
Really? Can we all just stop and think about these words and what they convey?
“Don’t touch a woman or a child because if you do, you are touching another man’s things. His property. It shows a lack of respect for a man.”
I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Take this to its logical conclusion. A man has the right to his property to do with it as he pleases. A man’s family is his “stuff”. Not heirs together of eternal life, not beloved of God, not firstborn sons of God – but my stuff. I can smack them around a bit. Use them as I see fit. They are my “stuff” after all. That’s my first problem.
The second is this – if a woman is molested, is the problem that there was a sin against God and against the woman, or is the sin that someone showed a lack of respect for a man’s stuff?
Don’t blow me off. It is a serious question. If we do not get a handle on this, we will never even understand the problem of sexual assault in church, domestic abuse in church, and we will have no communication whatsoever with the millions of women and children who have been abused, oppressed, despised and condemned by those supposed to be representing Christ to them. We, as the church of Jesus Christ, have become the school-yard bullies. But far worse than that, we have failed to uplift and edify and encourage. Instead we used words that are an offense against God and our neighbor by speaking that which was not right. Every idle word. Every man that you dismissed as effeminate, every woman that you dismissed as a man’s stuff, every child you turned your back on, you will have to give an account for your negligence on the day of judgment.
You don’t think this is a problem? Look at it again. “Get your hands off my stuff” – talking about a human being, created in God’s image!
I am floored.
The author admits that this flows from “common sense” rather than, apparently, the scripture. But I would prefer that he keep this kind of “common sense” to himself.
Instead of this, let me suggest an alternative for pastors:
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2Ti 4:2)
Do you remember that? It’s what we are supposed to be doing. Preach the word. Not attracting “masculine men” and “feminine women”, whatever those words mean. We are to preach Christ and him crucified.
Christ crucified means that there is no hope whatsoever in your maleness, your testosterone, your estrogen, your body parts. There is no hope whatsoever in the flesh. Whether you are a man or a woman, with “masculine” or “feminine traits”, Christ crucified puts an end to all of it.
So preach Christ. Preach Christ to men, to woman, to slaves, to free, to every race, every kindred, every tongue. Put to death your pride in your testosterone, your body parts, you maleness. Quit putting your trust in your personality or the frequency of your voice. Quit pointing at the others and saying, “I thank God I’m not like other men – like that “effeminate guy” over there” and just stop.
Stop, stop, stop. Remember Jesus said that the one pointing at the publican did not go away justified. He died in his sins. You cannot take pride in the flesh and embrace Christ. You cannot build the church of God and brag about the “masculine men” there. It doesn’t work that way.
Preach Christ, and him crucified. Open wide the doors. Quit preaching yourself and your testosterone, and preach Christ. Mortify the flesh. Welcome the sinners of every kind and give them Christ.
Welcome the people like you, and the people unlike you. Welcome the ones that grunt and sweat and talk about big holes and football and monster trucks, and welcome the ones that paint and sew and make music and like colors and fabrics. Because salvation isn’t in those things.
I would hope that anyone visiting First Reformed Church would not count the masculine men and the feminine women, but would simply notice that it is a church where Christ is preached, full of sinners saved by grace, made new by the blood of the lamb.
Christ crucified. That’s it. When we step, even a hair, away from that, we no longer have the right to stand in Christ’s pulpit. Get down, and let someone else do it, someone who knows what the gospel is.
And for the love of everything holy and good and beautiful and lovely, quit saying effeminate. It is a horrible word, every bit as bad as Raca, and every bit as destroying.
Thanks for listening.