I recently wrote a post titled Why the Church Desperately Needs Violent Men. There was a lot of positive feedback, as well as the obvious jerking-knee-response that comes from a direct hit on a nerve. But what was (at least a little) surprising was who was doing the complaining about the masculinity of Jesus and why.
For the most part, it wasn’t staunch feminists who were interacting with the post. Christian women were intriguingly positive. The most intensely negative responses to the article came from Christian men who had been worked into a lather by the use of the word “violent.”
Several quoted playfully from Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride: ‘That word you keep using: I do not think it means what you think it means.’
Others responded in a more how-dare-you outrage, flatly disagreeing with the use of the word “violent” and accusing me of the kind of click-bait tactics we’ve all come to know and hate. Maybe this or that word would have been better, less incendiary, more palatable, and so on. In any case, I was way off the mark.
Here’s the main issue: I used the words “violent men” because that is exactly, word for word, the language that Jesus used in Matthew 11:12.
And for those who wanted to hide behind the possibility that the Greek actually says something different, the masculine noun biastes, which the NASB translates “violent men,” means exactly what I think it means: “a forceful, violent man.”
In truth, many of us within the Christian community who claim Sola Scriptura are actually quite offended by the words of Christ especially when it comes to biblical sexuality. We recoil at them, try to dismiss them, and offer explanations for why different words would have been more helpful, winsome, or politically correct in the current cultural climate. We are actually so audacious as to suggest edits to Jesus for His sermons.
Serious question: How can we boldly proclaim the word of truth to a world lost in darkness when we ourselves are more than slightly embarrassed by what Jesus said and did? Do we really think it’s our job to run a PR campaign aimed at softening the words of Christ?
The point of preaching is never to make Christ acceptable. But in a man-centered era, this is automatically thought to be the task of the preacher—how to make God acceptable to man. Doug Wilson, Mother Kirk
Do you honestly think Jesus didn’t know it would be a controversial statement? Do you think He didn’t know that violence in men can turn a thousand ways into very serious disaster? Was He unaware that domestic violence existed? Wasn’t He aware that countless evils had been perpetrated in the name of God by unbiblically violent men? Do you think the Hippocratic Oath of His ministry was first, give no offense?
Of course Jesus knew how to be provocative. He knew how to make a person think. He chose words that cut, offended sensibilities, and caused people to furiously chew the cud of His teaching. Ruffling someone’s feathers was worth it if it made them think and repent.
With His shocking words Jesus exposes our hearts. It’s a merciful thing because it allows us to see ourselves honestly and then repent.
Jesus chose those exact words, so if we have a problem with them, the problem ultimately is with us. If His words don’t line up with the very domesticated and neutered form of masculinity we have in our 21st Century imaginations, the proper response is to see that we must change, not make more attempts to neuter or explain away His clear teaching.
Here’s why I think many men reacted so strongly.
First, the church has been more influenced by the current culture of political correctness and moral outrage than we’d like to admit.
From inclusivity propaganda in public schools to corporate sensitivity training, we’ve all been breathing the air of political correctness without noticing. The result is a hyper-sensitivity to anything that could ever be construed as offensive, particularly toward minority communities (LGBT, racial or ethnic minorities, women, etc.).
Ours is also a #MeToo moment in history, so we’re afraid to affirm the words of Jesus about masculinity because we know exactly how much trouble that’s going to get us in with the cultural gestapo.
We’re trained from the cradle to the cubicle to be outraged at anyone that uses a “harsh” tone, direct speech, or makes a moral judgment, particularly those relating to the truth of Scripture. We’ve taken our cues from the culture about what is offensive and what is not, what should be tolerated and what should not, and we’ve developed (often unwittingly) ears that recoil at hard truths.
The solution to all this madness is not more soft-peddled niceties. In an age of effeminacy, we desperately need hard men to speak plainly about essential truths like biblically violent masculinity.
Second, the church is shockingly less shaped by the teachings and life of Jesus than we think we are.
After publicly pronouncing curses on the religious leaders of the day (clearly breaking the SBC’s 11th commandment), Jesus was told by a lawyer, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too” (Luke 11:45).
I wonder what Jesus did next. Did He immediately retreat, walking back his statements with a thousand qualifications? Did He apologize to every minority He could think of, and start giving charitable donations to organizations friendly to Planned Parenthood just to avoid the scandalous hate of the power brokers of His day?
Nope. He doubled down.
“But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well!” (Luke 11:46). And then He began spelling out their sins in detail, in the plain light of day for all to hear. No doubt, His campaign manager resigned that day.
When a violent man stands up with the courageous hammer of truth today, the first thing that happens is that he’s attacked from within the church for having the wrong tone. Claiming the name of Christ, much of the modern church would actually be quite offended if Jesus showed up and started preaching about biblical sexual ethics.
The second thing that happens is the violent man is told he ought not to start fights within the camp, especially not with such venerated leaders who possess theological degrees and hold pristinely kept seats at the table of cultural prominence. He’s too divisive.
What we miss is that Jesus, as a violent man par excellence, was constantly picking fights inside the church. Judgment started with the household of God, and that’s exactly where He went to work.
Turning the Tide
Herman Melville once said that the pulpit leads the world. If that’s true, our effeminate hearts and ears can be traced back to the effeminate men who preach to us. It also means that’s a great place to start when dealing with a soft, effeminate church.
George Whitefield once said that the churches of his time were dead because dead men preached to them. We may expand this observation. The churches today are effeminate because effeminate men with wireless mikes and cardigan sweaters stroll around a platform chatting with the congregants in a non-threatening way . . . We live in an era which places a high value on hardness of heart. We can tell this by our love of soft teaching. — Doug Wilson, Mother Kirk
In other words, labor and pray that violent masculinity would make a return to the pulpit. We need hard men like John and Jesus who will preach the truth as the jackhammer of God that it is.