Manhood & Mister Rogers

I obviously did not know Mister Rogers personally. But by all accounts, it seems like he was a meek, kind, compassionate, and humble man.

I wonder if men’s ministries in our churches would accept him as a leader.

Over Thanksgiving break, I went to see A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood with Jamie and her family. Personally, I loved it.

Back at OBU, I had the opportunity to be a part of leading the men’s ministry on campus for several years. While in Phoenix, I sat in on a men’s ministry. I’ve read many books on the topic. It’s something I’m passionate about.

And with all of these experiences and lessons learned, I think that we need more men in our churches like Mister Rogers.

There’s a passage in Colossians that I came across that has me thinking more and more along those lines. At this point in the letter, Paul is encouraging the followers of Jesus at Colosse to put their sin to death, replacing those sinful behaviors with that which is in accordance with Christlikeness. He says this:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14

So, in summary, according to Paul a follower of Jesus (men included) should be:

  • compassionate
  • kind
  • humble
  • meek
  • patient
  • forgiving
  • loving

Somewhere along the way, in American churches, strength and courage, bravado and bravery have taken the lead when it comes to what men should be like. I wrestle with that a lot, because those things wouldn’t exactly be on my epitaph.

I know a ton of godly men, in my church, in my community, and in my past. Men who have and are pouring into me. This is obviously not an indictment against all men everywhere.

I just want to push back against the idea that a godly man must be aggressive, strong, boisterous, etc. I would in fact make the argument that the godly man should look more like the list above. And I will tell you from firsthand experience that the men who have been the most impactful in my life have some or all of those characteristics.

I have nothing at all against hunting or home improvement. But if I’m being real candid I have felt some (possibly self-induced) feelings of being ‘less than’ at different times in my life for not enjoying the prototypical male activities. I have wrestled with the way that God designed me to be, the gifts He’s given me.

I used to be an extremely loud, obnoxious, flirtatious, annoying, braggadocios, vulgar turd. As I’ve grown closer to the Lord, He has been pulling me away from those things. Well, maybe not the obnoxious part (as I wear a sequin-infested, dinosaur Christmas sweater while typing this).

I want to invest in younger men (something that both my full-time job as a pastor and part-time job with FCA allows me to do, praise God), and show them that manhood isn’t obscene and vulgar and loud. Manhood is service, meekness (the characteristic some say is ‘wussifying’ masculinity in our country), and humility. I want them to get that a lot earlier than I did.

I’ve read, listened to, and heard from men that masculinity is mostly strength and courage. But I’ve also seen many of these same men fall from grace. Hard. Private sexual sins and vulgarities and obscenities are ripped into the light. Anger and misogyny and domineering behaviors uncovered.

Why is it that so many men who have talked about manhood have had great public charisma and strength but little Christlikeness in private? Could it be because we’ve been teaching men the wrong things?

Have we focused so much on the man’s role in leading the family that we have forgot to talk about serving the family? Have we focused so much on outward strength that we’ve missed inward fruits of the Spirit?

Have we allowed Braveheart, Gladiator, and Saving Private Ryan to outshine Christ?

This past semester at the church I work at, we walked through the book of 1 Samuel with our youth and children. Jonathan leaps off the page.

Here you have a man who singlehandedly wins a battle for the people of God. Talk about strength and courage. These are not bad things. But he also was willing to relinquish his genetic right to the throne, giving it to David instead. Not only that, he wept over David, cherished his relationship with David, and saved him again and again. Here’s a man who had strength and courage, but that wasn’t all. He also was an empathetic, compassionate, humble, and kind man.

What a great example of what I personally believe manhood should look like.

I have another great example.

My dad.

My dad is strong. My dad is brave. My dad is courageous.

But my dad is also humble. My dad is kind. My dad is a servant.

And all the time, I mean all the time, he tells me one simple phrase. It’s not “be loud and proud”. It’s not “be rude and crude”. It’s not even “work hard and go hunt”.

It’s this.

“Be God’s man.”

And I want to tell younger men the same thing.

Be God’s man. 

Be a servant. Be someone who helps others in need. I’m not good at this one, but I’m working on it.

Be compassionate. When I see men tear up, I don’t think “what a pansy”. I think, “what a Christlike heart”.

Be kind. Sexism, sarcasm, rudeness and crudeness are not the way of Jesus. Be kind.

Be humble. You’re not all that and a bag of chips.

Be meek. Again, our culture doesn’t really like men like this. But Jesus was meek and gentle. Strength is not violent and aggressive. Strength is gentle.

Be patient. This world doesn’t revolve around you.

Be forgiving.

Be loving. Are you known for your jump shot, your wit, your looks, your intelligence, or your loving nature? Are you known more for the power of the Spirit (public life) or the fruit of the Spirit (private life)?

I think the world needs more men like Mr. Rogers.

I think the world needs more men like Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

No copyright infringement is intended in using this picture of Mister Rogers

 

 

A Man Like Jack

Jamie and I have been watching the tv show This Is Us together for quite some time now (We are behind so please no spoilers). Throughout the entire series, I have been enamored by Jack Pearson. I know he’s just a tv show character, but I see in this character a father and husband worth emulating. He was encouraging, supportive, patient, compassionate, and loving towards his children and his wife (most of the time).

It is not a surprise that our country is in need of fathers, godly fathers. I have seen a growing trend of men seeing their children as burdens, their lives being basically over because they have a wife and kids at home. I’ve seen men neglect their family for video games. I’ve seen men vicariously live through the sports of their children. I’ve seen men neglect, control, berate, and condemn their children and wife who they see as burdens.

Again, Jack is just a tv show character, and there is no Christian witness in his life. But there is a wonderful scene where he shows the passion he has for his children and wife. He gets in a small squabble with his wife and his friend Miguel takes him to a golf course to play a round. Miguel and his friends start telling Jack how he will come to love golf because it’s four hours away from his wife and kids, and he’d be able to escape his wife specifically. jack.jpg

He says this:

“I don’t want to escape her,” Jack says. “I want to freeze time so that I can get a little bit more.”

Boom. The looks on the other men’s faces was classic in that scene.

Here’s the absolutely heartbreaking thing to me. I have been involved in a men’s Bible study in the past where the attitudes of the Christian men in the room were just that. They didn’t explicitly come out and say they just wanted to escape their wives and kids, but there were plenty of ‘ball and chain’ type jokes and there is truly a hint of truth in every joke. It was full of past high school sports stories as they relived their glory days, and ways that we were being called to live as godly men in the public sphere, standing up courageously for Christ. But jokes abounded about wives, and even some kids.

Here’s the reality.

I SHOULD SEEK TO BE A GODLY MAN IN MY PRIVATE FAMILY LIFE FAR MORE THAN I DO IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE. Sorry, I get a little ranty when I talk about this type of thing. I’m sick of seeing men like myself seeking public praise for their godly character while treating their private family and loved ones with ungodly character.

Here’s the thing about men. We have a yearning for praise of other men, we have a yearning for glory. We watch movies like Gladiator, Braveheart, and Black Hawk Down and we want that courageous story. So if we have to stand up for Christ in the public square, we will do it? But lay down our lives for our wives? Nah. Love, encourage, support, and spend time with our children instead of neglecting them for ‘ministry’? Nah.

I hate my tendency to do just that.

Three verses, two passages, one call to be a father and husband who loves their family.

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. – 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. – Ephesians 5:25

In the 1 Thessalonians passage, Paul is reminding the church in Thessalonica how he lived among them in the past when he brought the gospel to them. He said he behaved with them like a father to his children. We see here in this passage then that a father is to encourage and comfort his kids, and then ultimately urge them to live lives worthy of God for His glory in the nations. How many men are this? How many Christian men are this? It’s easy to control, condemn, berate. We are called to encourage, comfort, and urge to godly living.

In the Ephesians passage, you can’t be anymore clear. Christ gave Himself up for the church. We are to give ourselves up for our wives.

Men of God, live for Christ. Men of God, encourage, comfort, and urge your children into godly living for God’s glory amongst the nations. Men of God, love your wives and give your life up for her.

Stop the vicarious living through your children, stop seeing your wife as a ball and chain. You were called into something far greater.

Women of God, live for Christ. You are called to far more than being a wife or mom. You are called to be a disciple. Be patient with your husband, but don’t treat him like he’s stupid or incapable of being the husband and father God has called him to be.

I have been criticized at times for speaking up about this since I’m not currently a husband or father. I have tried to write with grace and humility, admitting that I myself am not where I should be in my love and treatment of Jamie.

But I know what Scripture says. And I will not back down from that.

Jack is a character worth emulating in his love and support of his wives and kids. But as Christian men we should be so much more, as we urge our kids and wives to make disciples of Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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