The single and childless Jesus is our mirror image of manhood. He is the alternative to the malestrom. In his book The Good and Beautiful Life, author James Bryan Smith wrote, “Those who enter the kingdom of God comprised an exclusive club: they were Jewish, male, religiously upright, healthy, and wealthy. Jesus’ ministry ran counter to this narrative.” This narrative is patriarchy, and it is the cultural backdrop in which the biblical story is told. King Jesus has overcome this broken system. Yes, he was Jewish. Yes, he was male. Yes, he was the firstborn who made himself last by coming to earth as Emmanuel—God dwelling among his own people. This man lashed out against the self-righteous religious leaders who were complicit with the political and other oppressive structures of his day. He did not come as an authoritative, powerful king, and that’s exactly how Herod missed him!
He humbled himself and entered as a baby. He grew. He hurt and suffered. He submitted to the will of his father and learned obedience. He prayed. He taught people—women and men—how to follow in his way. He considered the needs of others above his own needs, so he cried teardrops like blood. He drank the cup of fear, bitterness, separation, and the disappointment of his friends. He gave up his life and died.
He did this to recover our broken relationship with God. He did this to recover and redefine what manhood and womanhood mean in the kingdom of God. We are the sheep of his pasture. We are new creations in Christ Jesus. He has liberated us from the curse, which produces the currents of the malestrom and patriarchy.
My Personal Takeaways?
Through reading this book, I was convinced that God does not call Christians to a “kinder or gentler” form of patriarchy, if there is such a thing. God calls Christians to model the life of Jesus and uproot or overturn everything in the earth that has been negatively impacted by original sin. This certainly includes the broken relationships among human beings and the broken relationship between men and women.
This book also reminded me of the importance of reading and rereading the Bible to study and show myself as an approved worker who is not ashamed. Good hermeneutics, evaluating not only what the biblical text says but also how we interpret that text, is paramount. Oftentimes we read into the text our own cultural biases and social understanding of what has been passed down to us in our families, churches, and communities without considering how that understanding or interpretation may have been wrong. Those conclusions have drastic implications for how we value and interact with others, especially when we take our conversations globally to consider the negative impact our theology about leadership and male headship has on women and vulnerable children.