After daily Mass recently, I was struck when seeing a young adult guy walking and talking with some gals. Initially I was encouraged to see young people seeking an encounter with Christ at Mass, but then the boy caught my attention. He was dressed in skinny jeans, hipster loafers and had a swirling Bieber-esk hair style. While this look is not all that surprising to see in the Millennial generation of men, his delicate gestures and soft voice continued to strike a nerve. I finally placed my finger on what the rub was, this young man encompassed an image of what the world- including us Catholics- expect Christian men to be…soft, sensitive…nice guys.
If being a Christian is merely synonymous with being nice, then what’s the point? Anyone who uses their blinker to change lanes or opens a door for a lady is a “nice guy”. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the one who demonstrated such immense power that he walked on water, healed the deaf, blind, and dumb with a word, and conquered death by rising from a tomb, didn’t come so as to just teach us to be nice.
Many of us men have reduced our faith to just that…being a nice guy. Whether it was the felt art projects we completed in Sunday school or images of the “safe environment” Jesus hung in our churches (see image below), true masculinity, which Jesus came to redeem, has been lost in many ways. Philip Yancey describes how we have watered down Christianity in his book, The Evidence of Jesus’ Claims. He says “How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified? What government would crucify Mister Rogers or Captain Kangaroo?”
St. Paul even describes this stumbling block to first century Christians when he said
“For if someone comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you seem to endure it quite well” (2 Corinthians 11:4).
If we haven’t encountered the authentic Jesus, then we tend to make up our own version of Him and then simply file Christianity away under this false image. Unlike what the world holds out, Jesus wasn’t just some soft, nice guy. He is God-incarnate, the creator of the heavens and the earth. It’s easy to see how radical he was when we study the Gospels. People either loved him, laying down their own lives for his sake, or they hated him and crucified him. There is no in between. A nice guy wouldn’t have been remembered, much less killed. Jesus is not just an ordinary nice guy, and neither are his disciples expected to be!
Sacred Scripture paints for us a different picture of what is expected of disciples than the nice guy (as long as you keep it to yourself) type of Christianity that is purported today in our culture.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
I’ve read this scripture passage and heard it numerous times and I’ve always assumed that it meant that the church would be persecuted while on earth but she would ultimately prevail. A closer look at these words however reveal something totally different.
Gates are used to keep people or aggressors out, you don’t fight or advance on an enemy with your gate closed! What God is saying in this passage is that the church, which is you and me, will overtake the gates of hell on our way to taking back His world in our participation in the redemption of it.
Reading this passage correctly was like putting on glasses for the first time and being able to see. We are not supposed to hunker down in our skinny jeans with soft hands and even softer wills, hoping big bad Satan doesn’t get us. Rather we are meant to storm the beaches of hell and take the world back for Christ and the gates the netherworld cannot withstand our assault.
We are soldiers, more specifically the Church traditionally describes those on earth as the Church Militant. It’s about time we men take that title seriously. We should train as soldiers, with the same intensity as soldiers going into a hostile war zone; ordering our will, intellect, and body. Because that’s exactly what we’ve been called to do, fight. It’s about time brothers we show the world what real Christian men do. Let us reclaim our authentic God-given manhood and in doing so reclaim the family, society, and the whole human race.
Jesus, through His Church, gave us a battle plan for this mission:
Corporal Works of Mercy:
- Feed the Hungry
- Give Drink to the Thirsty
- Shelter the Homeless
- Visit the Sick
- Visit the Prisoners
- Bury the Dead
- Give Alms to the Poor
Spiritual Works of Mercy
- Counsel the Doubtful
- Instruct the Ignorant
- Admonish the Sinner
- Comfort the Sorrowful
- Forgive Injuries
- Bear Wrongs Patiently
- Pray for the Living and the Dead