One of our central problems today is that Christian men have been maneuvered (and/or bludgeoned) into thinking that ungodly and sentimental softness is a biblical virtue. Even while attempting to take a stand against the extreme forms of rebellion in our time — e.g. complementarianism v. egalitarianism — those who stand for the biblical position too frequently attempt to outdo the disobedient at their own game. It comes down to a “softer than thou” sort of posturing. The corruptions of feminism have gotten into everything — Calvinism, evangelical activism, complementarianism, and so on. The end result is that evangelical men, taking one thing with another, are gayer than a pope tweet.
And lest this seem like a random insult — instead of an incredibly apt metaphor — let me just say that Pope Francis (@Pontifex) takes sentimentalist sap to new and majestic heights. “Advent begins a new journey. May Mary, our Mother, be our guide.” “Advent increases our hope, a hope which does not disappoint. The Lord never lets us down.” “There is so much noise in the world! May we learn to be silent in our hearts and before God.”
It didn’t always used to be this way. It almost makes one yearn for the days of the badass popes. For example, Pope Urban VI ordered the torture and execution of five of his cardinals, responding to their screams with his taunt of “weak old women!” That also would be a bad hash tag, but at least it wouldn’t be so insipid and boring . . . okay then, all right. I changed my mind. I am prepared to grant the effeminate Francis is an improvement, but still . . . #DeathByBromide.
But I got distracted from the point anyhow. The problem we are discussing is evangelical men who do not know what gentleness is. They do not know what men are for. They do not understand how tenderness is supposed to work.
Gentleness is an essential part of what the Spirit works in us (Gal. 5:22). “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (2 Tim. 2:24). And with godly men, this gentleness is not clumsy, not out of place. It really is gentle. “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (1 Thess. 2:7). This kind of gentleness is a velvet-covered brick.
Masculine gentleness is a good thing, and altogether to be desired. The point here is that it is not the same thing as what the egalitarian world is adamantly defining as acceptable behavior for males. That requires a softness at the core that can only be defined as a kind of masculine rot.
Meekness is a good thing, and we are called to it. “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Tit. 3:2).
But these terms are biblical terms, to be defined by the Bible, and not by the Fellowship of the Perpetually Offended. Moses was a meek man, one of the meekest who ever lived. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). But he was the same man who used his staff to leave that era’s great superpower a smoldering ruin. Whenever he left, his meekness did not leave Pharaoh muttering anything about “mama’s boy.” The courtiers of Pharaoh were too busy saying that Egypt was destroyed (Ex. 10:7) to be saying anything at all about what a panty-waist Moses had been.
So we are to be gentle, but our gentleness is to be imitative. God is omnipotent, but He is also gentle. We cannot duplicate what He does, but we are nevertheless told to imitate it. But what does His gentleness do?
“He teacheth my hands to war, So that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: And thy right hand hath holden me up, And thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, That my feet did not slip. I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: Neither did I turn again till they were consumed” (Ps. 18:34–37).
God was gentle with David, and the end result was that his hands were ready for war. He was able to break a bow of steel. His feet were kept secure so that he could pursue his enemies and consume them.
All together now — that’s in the Old Testament!
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Cor. 10:1–6).
Paul pleads with the Corinthians, using for his oath “the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” He wants to be gentle with them when he comes to them, but he also knows that his gentleness might have to come to them as severity. And what will the final effect of this gentle ministry be? He, the man who swears by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, will pull down strongholds, cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. He will take every thought captive, bringing them to the obedience of Christ. And he will deal with every form of disobedience. In short, he is prepared to kick some Corinthian hinder parts and take names.
Now if you let the world take biblical words and fill them out with their definitions, and then you try to fight for other biblical concepts with this gear, with this panoply, you will discover — soon enough — that you are out on the battlefield with the sword of truth and a shield of wet tissue paper.
So you can see this principle everywhere. The right kind of hard man is hard for his wife. Soft men are hard on their wives. In the same way, hard men are hard for their people; soft men are hard on their people. As we deal with these perilous times, we need hard pastors — pastors who are hard for their congregations, not hard on their congregations.
We need Christian leadership, in short, that is meek and gentle in its responsiveness to the Word of God, and that absolutely refuses to budge whenever the world demands it. And that is something that I am afraid we do not currently have.