This is a rough outline of remarks I gave to the young men of New St. Andrews.
Those of you who have been here for a while know that we strive to live in community in a way that cultivates a garden of grace. We know that law doesn’t have the power to enable you to be obedient, and that wielded wrongly, it is just a stout cudgel to knock you down with. We know what the limits of law are. At the same time, we know the important, subordinate role of law in sanctification, which is that of helping you understand what love looks like. We know how important it is for us to have what we have come to affectionately call our “fathead talk.”
I say all this because—within this garden of grace—you have just wandered into a little law zone. Don’t look to anything I say here as enabling you to look up and drive straight. The speed limit sign doesn’t have any power to reach out and grab your bumper. But it can tell you what the speed limit is.
So I want to do is challenge ten common assumptions that young men have, and give an illustration for each one.
1. Don’t assume that a humble and contrite heart is somehow not masculine.
The heart of masculinity is the glad assumption of responsibility. If you are living any kind of a double life, any ongoing evasion of responsibility does not protect your masculinity, it eviscerates it. The only way you can get back on your feet is if you get back on your knees. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up. You have a story up to the present. You are chapter 18 in a book that is currently being written. Take responsibility, and to do this right is a humble and contrite move.
2. Don’t assume you understand your temptations.
A very common besetting sin among young, unmarried men is the sin of lust, porn, and the rest of it. I also include the forms of porn that have been mainstreamed simply because they have a well-known director and Christians are willing to watch them together without anybody calling the elders. Because it is common and obvious, you think you understand it. This is bad, don’t do it, that’s all. But the central thing that young men do not commonly understand about the lust, porn, masturbation cycle is that it is a form of catechesis. Whether you confess the obvious sin at the center or not, you are still learning something fundamentally wrong about the world.
3. Don’t assume you are bulletproof.
When you are driving around town, you might assume that because your hand/eye reflexes are fantastic, you should have no trouble not running over the pedestrians on the sidewalk. But your job as the driver is not just to avoid running over pedestrians, but also to avoid running over the girls in the backseat who caught a ride with you.
4. Don’t assume you understand what others want from you.
You think you are just being edgy, well within the confines of the student code of conduct, and where does the Bible say that you can’t be a little edgy? You have that metro-vibe going, and why not? you think to yourself. But what you are actually doing is dressing in a way calculated to get older chickenhawks to hit on you. I have noticed that many Christians who insist most loudly on what they call “cultural engagement” are actually resolute in their refusal to understand what that culture is saying at all.
5. Don’t assume that if a pretty girl smiles at you that she wants to bear your children.
Women are expensive, and the fact that you clonked your forehead on her smile does not automatically give you superpowers, enabling you to impress her father, wow her brothers, win her heart, and provide for her faithfully, and all determined before your first Christmas break here.
6. Don’t assume that your earning power will grow steadily all by itself.
As the book of Proverbs tells us over and over, hard work is sexy. Or words to that effect.
7. Don’t assume that mammon doesn’t have you by the throat simply because you don’t have any money.
The words of Wesley here are wise. Earn all you can. Give all you can. Save all you can. All three of these, rightly understood, are forms of giving. Earning gives. Giving gives. Saving gives. Renting seven videos for one weekend doesn’t.
8. Don’t assume that dogmatism can be substituted for study.
Bluster and bravado are forms of boasting that feed the masculine ego. The satisfaction of putting actual points on the scoreboard is something else. Accomplishment is masculine. Assumed accomplishment is not.
9. Don’t assume that God cannot be glorified unless you are.
The stories in which God is most greatly glorified are those stories in which His characters are willing to be humbled. Being humbled is no fun. Do not assume that you are reading the stories of others accurately – the tendency will be to think that everyone else was an overnight success because before you heard of them you had never heard of them. God loves to have His people pay their dues.
10. Don’t assume that the examples given for each of these challenged assumptions is the only possible example. The devil is creative.