Men on the Fringe
In my last blog I referred to myself as not being a conventional christian man. As I reflect more on that comment what I meant to say was that I aspire to not be perceived as a conventional christian man in the way our society sees and labels us. Our society's general impression is that Christians, especially men are not to be admired because they are either weak, weird, wimps, hypocritically judgmental or all of the above. Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples the public can point to in which they draw these conclusions from. Those labels don’t sit well with me. I have always had a challenge identifying with the milt toast men of our society and especially christian men who fall into that category. I am more comfortable with a guy who is rough around the edges and a bit brash more than I am around someone who is indirect and unwilling to speak their mind to your face. I have little or no tolerance for men who are like that of a modern Pharisees who puts on a good face for all the world to see but underneath is totally lacking in substance and character. Wrap these men in a christian label and they become legalistic hypocrites that destroy the work that Christ did on the cross and alienate good men who are on the fringe.
Matt. 23: 27-28 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Look around you. Who are those good men you know who are on the fringe. Do you blame them for not wanting to be associated with the men I just described? I certainly don't. The downfall, however, is that their wives tend to be the ones who are leading the charge in terms of spiritual leadership and growth within the family. Most of the time it is not because the wife wants to assume the spiritual leadership role it is because there a void that needs to be filled caused by the husband's inability to see himself becoming a christian man like the ones he has grown to not respect. Couple that with the guy on the fringe's very real feeling of inadequacy to fill those shoes the wife chooses the path of least resistance and is forced to assume the leadership role. I can tell you with confidence men that if you feel you are one of those guys, your wife would much rather have you step into the role and make mistakes along the way than have you sit on the side lines. Your wife wants you to be the man that God has created you to be and not sell yourself short to a false you. Today, women both young an old are hungry for men to step up and take the lead spiritually.
Personally, as a christian, I have always sought out those men within the church that I find are relevant and relatable to me. I consider myself fortunate for most of my christian walk to have had one or more of those men in my life.. There have also been those times when I have been isolated or disconnected from men usually caused by friends relocating for family or career reasons. Those were lonely and challenging times on my own. I have recognized I do much better in battle when I am not a lone soldier and knowing I have other brothers who have my back.
Let me provide some additional personal history I think is relevant to this topic. For over 20 years I was on construction sites daily. To say the least construction sites are worldly places and often filled with rough language and rough men. Many of these men however were not just outstanding craftsmen and highly skilled at their trades but they were real men of character. Some were believers in Christ while others were just good men. After working with these guys for years I developed great respect for them. I learned that they were men who took pride in their work, had high expectations of others to do what they said they were going to do, and were men I could count on if the going got tough as it often did. These were men of their word and I knew if ever I really needed them I could call on them and they would be there for me. Christ chose to associate with men of the world as his disciples. He had fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot and others. These were worldly men and I suspect they were rough men in every sense of the word for that time. These men were relevant at that time and were not the elite or disconnected from society. Guys that most could probably relate to.
Contrast the men I just described above with many of the men who are the bi-products of today's society. I often find myself disgusted with the neutered behavior and character I witness. By definition the word neutered means "neither masculine or feminine in gender, neither active or passive, and taking no side in a dispute." That is not what God has created us as men to be.
Recently, I attended an outstanding man's funeral. His name was Bob Cooke, Bob was a highly skilled carpenter and widely respected throughout the construction industry. Bob was a rough guy on the outside. He demanded you to be true to your word and he was always true to his. The rules in Bob's game were simple; show up on time, do what you say you are going to do, perform a fulls days work, don't complain, and when things go wrong fix them. Today these qualities are on the verge of extinction in our society. They are being replaced by the "neutered man syndrome" where showing up whenever it works for you is acceptable, you are a man of your word if and when it benefits you, and character is someone in a video game. On the flip side, men like Bob caused you to rise up on the inside and work to be your best. Bob didn't perform his work for attention or compliments. He performed his work because he took pride in what he accomplished with his hands. His hard work and character inspired myself and others to step up our game as well. Even in his last years as he battled cancer he was always on the job site early and could keep up with the best of them.
At his funeral, Bob's rough side was openly remembered but not in a harsh way because those who knew Bob knew he was trying to draw the best out of everyone he came in contact with. For me it was a great reminder that our character is closely watched by the world in which we live and the values of integrity, hard work and steely compassion still stand out and are highly sought after. I was reminded that I can't let my guard down or relax my standards because others are watching and our society needs role models like Bob Cooke that run cross grain to the fickle world we live in.
Back to those men we know who live on the fringe and are keenly aware that their wives are leaving them behind spiritually. These men need to be convinced that christian men are really men that they can relate to and who can be trusted. I am convinced we have to be relevant to these guys and go after them, not as relational projects but as friends and brothers in Christ. As Jim Ramos states in his book "Man Card" we need to be men who are in alignment.......when your public and private lives are the same. Men on the fringe need to know you are who you represent yourself to be. Many of these men are the Bob Cookes of the world that other men of the world look up to. I find these men are refreshing, real and tell it the way it is. I can relate to how they feel. It is for these reasons I love Jeff Voth's (the author of CaveTime and Defending the Feminine Heart) style of writing. Jeff is straight forward and at times is in your face almost like a high school football coach. I am drawn to that style and think many of these men on the fringe need to hear what men like yourself and Jeff Voth have to say about Christ. They need to know christian men are real, trustworthy and someone who understands where they are coming from. If you can get them to cross that bridge you may help them lower their guard enough to be open to hear what Christ has to say to them. Pull them in from the edges and let God work on their hearts.
Isaiah 57:14 says “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”
Let's be men who remove the obstacles from the road for all those guys who need to move from the fringe into the battle. Keep swinging for the fences.