As we continue to meditate on the importance of self-control, and its relationship to other forms of free governance, we have to do more than consider control of appetites and emotions that we know to be a problem. We also need to exercise self-control when it comes to suppression of false virtues.
One of the false virtues of the modern evangelical church is the “virtue” of softness. Now of course gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, right alongside self-control, but it is sign of our decadence that we have confounded softness and gentleness. Of course we are to cultivate gentleness, but Christian men are to be, as the phrase goes, velvet-covered bricks. Men are called by the Spirit of God to be hard.
Self-control therefore calls us to embark on the process of growing up into our masculinity and our femininity respectively. These are to be pursued and embraced. It is a mark of how much we in the church have been affected by the propaganda of our diseased culture that what I am about to say is going to sound hokey and lame. Boys need to learn how to be manly. Girls need to learn how to be womanly. Only Spirit-given self-control can equip us to do this, particularly in the face of unrelenting pressure from the world. But that world has abandoned its knowledge of masculinity and femininity only because the evangelical church abandoned it first.
This all sounds like a cartoon, right? Objections start to fly immediately. All the boys have to play football and work on cars? The girls need to concentrate on their cross-stitch? The boys have to cultivate a gruff voice? The girls have to make us all some biscuits? The fact that this paragraph resonates more with us than the previous paragraph did is why we have to meditate on this as we kneel to confess our sins. This has been one of our fundamental compromises—the evangelical church is still (thank God) predominately heterosexual . . . but our culture of evangelical leadership is thoroughly gay.
We have chosen as a template for leadership one that selects for softness (malakos), as though we wanted representatives for Herod’s courts (Matt. 11:8). We have ignored the apostle’s solemn charge in 1 Cor. 16:13 literally to “play the man” (andrizomai). And why? Lack of self-control.