Sunday, October 8, 2023

A starving world. . .

The world is not so much full as it is starving.  When God formed us from the dust of the earth, breathed into us the breath of life, and declared us to be His own image, He made us for truth.  We were made by the God of truth to know truth and to be free by that truth.  Without the Word of God, we are starving for the truth that we were created to know.  Because of sin, we cannot even recognize what that truth is and it must be revealed to us.  The world is full of lie, falsehoods, half-truths, relativism, and deceptions -- all of which leave us empty and hungry but not even sure could satisfy us.  It is in this context that Christ enters the world with the promise of freedom to those who abide in Him by His Word and Sacraments.  This freedom is the gift of truth, Christ, the way, the truth, and the life.  While this is true for all people, it is particularly true for men -- both the need and the answer in Christ.

Men will fight for truth.  Take the truth away and you take the fight out of men.  Part of the reason so many churches have so few men in the congregation is that they have no truth left -- no truth to own, to fight for, and to live for.  If men are skipping out on the pews, you can be sure that in that church God has been reduced to a feeling and any truth of God has been used largely to elicit or uphold the feelings of the people there.  None of us welcomes the call to repentance but this is a fight men can understand.  The most profound fight is the fight for truth, for doctrine that does not change, and for the fruits of this doctrine and truth in daily life.  The most profound fight is the daily battle to renounce the desires of the self with the whispers of the devil and the temptations of the world.  As soon as you stop talking about these things, the Church is in trouble and you will find men heading for the exit.

Truth offends.  When churches no longer want to risk offense, they have lost their truth and they will lose the men who are willing to stand for truth and to be tarred and feathered for the cause of truth for the sake of the Kingdom.  The Church has become frozen by the fear of offending the people in the pews and the people outside the Kingdom of God.  Our language has become soft and our truth weak and we are more ashamed of the doctrines passed down to us than rallied by them.  In a Church where the fear of offense is greater than the uniting power of the truth, that Church is dying and the men will be the first to go.  The Church is not primarily a social organization with social causes but a living organism established upon and living by the truth the saves.  When our purpose becomes exclusively tied to the redress of social ills, the Church no longer lives by the truth of the cross and empty tomb and no longer has anything to offer to a people longing for more than feeling better about things around them.

Though some suggest that ceremony and ritual and vestments work against the participation of men in the Church, it is just the opposite.  Men understand the value of ceremony.  Think of the ancient rituals rooted in patriotism, sports, and such.  These were born largely of a male society looking to be distinct from the world and the appeal of the average.  Men have been turned off in worship by a liturgy without reverence and an encounter with God that is more casual than formal.  How is the Church distinct when her music sounds like every other radio countdown of the top 40 and the lyrics are largely love songs to Jesus?  When we could no longer sing of the Church as soldiers and admit the battle faced to renounce the devil and all his works and ways, we were left with a soundtrack that rejected men and so they rejected this false liturgy.  When sermons no longer instructed and when doctrinal preaching became a stranger to our pulpits, men noticed first.  The neglect of the sermon is the neglect of the household of God.  Strong preaching builds the Church and it calls and keeps men in the pews.

The sad reality is that we are a lonely society.  No matter the social media available to us, we long for koinonia, for the fellowship of the faith and the faithful.  Men are no exception.  Within our busy lives and our homes torn by the many different directions and obligations of each member there is a haunting loneliness particularly among men.  We certainly do not need to invent clever programming to answer this isolation.  We do not need more obligations upon the busy household.  We need to single out the most important associations and fellowship and that begins at the altar rail.  We cannot even bring ourselves to say the word brotherhood any more and yet it is this fellowship of those who head the homes that is critical and critically missing today.  We need this also to help us train up our sons to become men of God, men of faith, and leaders for our churches and the world.  Over and over again men are told to be quiet in schools, churches, institutions, and social groups led largely by women.  Take a look at how many men are valedictorians or salutatorians or in the top 10% of their classes academically.  Take a look at those who are graduating from law schools, medical schools, and engineering schools and you see how women have begun to crowd out men from what was once a very masculine occupation.

Nobody is saying that we need macho men or men who do not care for their wives or children.  But it does not take much discernment to see that society is not welcoming toward men and many churches are in the same boat.  If men leave the Church, the Church is not simply weaker but has lost part of her essential identity.  Both the Church and the world have gotten boys and men wrong when they try to suppress their masculine gifts and treat it as if it were only toxic.  What you end up with are weak men and evil men who have confused violence with who they are.  There is and has always been a natural, good, wholesome, and healthy masculinity.  We see it in the Scriptures clearly.  We need to rediscover how to foster this masculinity before it is too late.  It is not simply for men that we need to do this but for women and children and the Church as a whole.  The one who can lead us is the God-man Jesus Christ who can direct the fight to where it needs to go -- against the evil one and his evil ways and the weakness of the old Adam to them.  And we need to do it before it is too late.

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