On Valentine's Day, Praying for Men Who Buy Sex
Her.meneutics isn't in the habit of encouraging thought experiments, but try this one for a moment.
If you kept a log of all your thoughts and remarks about men in a given day, what types of statements would be listed? Or, put another way: How many words can you think of to describe a man you disrespect? Now how many can you think of to describe a man you esteem?
As soon as I asked myself these questions, I thought of two or three dismissive nouns to which I could reduce a guy who angered or frustrated me. But I struggled for positive counterparts, and the ones I thought of (prince and, um, prince) seemed derived from the world of fairytales and fantasy — words I couldn't really use in any honest way.
Were you much different?
That pattern, I suspect stems from our incomplete knowledge of others. As a consequence, we're constantly filling in the gaps, taking what we know and then adding sin or perfection. So we construe Mr. X based on selfishness, lust, or sloth (cue disgust) or on the wit, sensitivity, and Rogaine that we think will render life together pain-free and easy (cue unrealistic expectations). Worse, our projections for Mr. X aren't even about what kind of man the mythical he is, but the special ways he could please and satisfy us — or is sure to fail in doing so.
This, I think, is why we see such brokenness displayed in the industrial complex of Valentine's Day. It's not about the glorification of self-giving, other-serving love, but the demand for another's love to serve and gratify us.
The Bible offers a different way to think about romantic love in light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And I'd like to suggest that it also offers a different way to conceive of our brothers.
The tendencies described above suggest that we tend to imagine men as either wholly depraved and under sin or angelic and free of sin. But what if we imagined them under grace and living by the power of the Cross? To do so is to uphold and affirm both men's fallenness under the curse, and their potential to image the God who created them and empowers them to help bring his kingdom on earth.
Try it for a moment. Think of a man you tend to disgust or scorn and imagine what he would be like if God really got a hold of his life. What would he be like "on" Jesus (in the parlance of that old, Reagan-era anti-drug commercial)? Not the Jesus of greedy TV preachers and seven-day conversions but the Jesus who transformed John Newton from a slave trader into a preacher who penned one of our most enduring expressions of grace. The Jesus whose love so radically transformed a zealous and murderous persecutor of the early church that he became one of its most passionate defenders and exhorters, preaching and writing until he himself was put to death. What if that Jesus got into the man you can't stand? What would he be like? What traits and skills of his, if redirected by love and humility, could become a means of blessing and serving others instead of causing harm and destruction?
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