Blogtext "Men in action"

 ”How Should We then Live?”


First: the matter penned down

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!


Those more than well-known words from Psalm 133 form the arrowhead of a quest for some basic life parameters for any group of believers. But especially for men as such. There appears to be a good reason to accept the insight that any group of men will react and interact in fairly recogniceable and universal patterns if left to their own devices. All cultural differences aside, males tend to have some basic things in common wherever they are. I take note that individually they may be anything but this way inclined, but as a group they will surely show up some of these characteristics.

I have detected a few that might be universal. You will correct me if I am wrong, I am sure of it.

1. Jockeying for position within the group.


2. Keeping the face and standing on their dignity, come what may. ”I must appear to be in control even when I have lost the plot.”

3. ”Fixitity”. The only real reason to talk about something is to find a solution to a problem.


4. Don’t rock the boat. Finger in the air, sniff out the wind and sail along. Only live salmon go against the flow of the stream.


5. Brothers in arms, even in the face of the Father. The isms of the world are formed by the fatherless against God

6. Men join clubs today for the same reason they bore clubs in the past: security in number or collective clout.

7. Programme, protocol and comittees are the collective armour behind which men like to hide. “If we name it we must tame it.”

8. By and large men lack an acceptable language for their emotions. Emotive language is seen as female prerogative by many. Nobody wants to appear a sissy..

To a varying degree we may recognize these more or less common signals as our own or those of our present affiliations. They surely arer worth pondering. Especially if we want to become men of God in Christ.

It all comes down to the effects of what is known as Group dynamics and has been extensively researched within the field of Psychology. But there is a massive point of departure from the findings of ordinary human psychology towards a biblical approach to the issues. Whereas psychology starts with man in his fallen, post adamic state, biblical understanding starts with the man redeemed and identified in the last Adam. For this distinction I am much beholden to Oswald Chambers and the notes from his lectures on Biblical Psychology. Essentially there is a huge chasm between the natural man and the spiritual man. Whereas the natural man is impervious to any work of the Spirit except nudging him towards repentance, the Spiritual man nudges everything merely natural to the sacrificial altar. The study of ‘l’homme animal’ and l’homme spirituel’ leads to vastly different avenues of thought about man and men.


Interestingly enough the Bible shows lots of examples from both of these two object groups. And it is by comparison between the behaviours of those under sin and those under grace that we might get clues to an answer to the main question: “How should we then live?”


Ambiguity


In the above list of points there rests a considerable ambiguity. Each point has two sides to it. None of them are in themselves necessarily wrong but they can lead to wrongs if not tempered by the Spirit of regeneration.

1. Jockeying for position within the group.
Unless those who are able to lead stand up in the group and make themselves known as potential leaders the group may suffer listless and aimless idiocracy. The group exists then merely as a place to hole up and rescind all responsibility without any other aim then to be and be left alone by the group. (Idiocracy means: “That which to itself is it’s only reason to exist.”) Without any positioning the group refrains from direction and purpose outside of the enjoying life on the basis of the least common denominator. Leadership comes out of the need for taking stands within the group so that the group can stand out. But clearly we all know of groups where some muscle in and turn the group into an extension of their own ego only. Group cohesion then becomes the evidence of leadership. Even if all the direction that the incumbent leader follows is destructive in the long run.

Discuss: when are ambitions an assett and when are they a hinderance?


2. Keeping the face and standing on their dignity, come what may. ”I must appear to be in control even when I have lost the plot.”
Being a man has cultural overtones from the past and of the present mode of thought. What seems to define manhood is this apparent need to be in control, or, less kindly, to seem to be in control.. “Oim al’roit, mon”. The captain goes down with the ship and pretends all is well and straightens the cuffs and doffs the right angle to the cap before the waves crash in over his head. Confessing weakness comes hard. “My ship sank but at least I went down with dignity!”

Discuss: what lies behind this ramrod backbone attitude and how can we come off it? Image: vertebrate man compared to invertebrate Lobster.


3. ”Fixitity”. The only real reason to talk about something is to find a solution to a problem.
The three friends of Job illustrate two very powerful positions. First, on hearing about Job’s sorrow and suffering they join him and sit with him “for seven days and seven nights”. In sympathy and comiseration, in trying to enter into the factual suffering of Job? So far so good. But then, but then comes the inevitable and commonly male reaction when faced with a problem, especially when it is not our own: find the fault and fix it. (If it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it. Is it a reflection of our own brokenness that we always suss out what is broken else where?) But men will not give up looking for something to fix. Is that an expression of being God’s co-creators or is it something else? The next 37 chapters in Job show them suggesting cause and effect and solutions. Job battles not only against his total bereavement, but also against “the sound or unsound advice” of his “Friends”.

Discuss: is mending the world our task?
Is it not our primary task? Or is it us contuing to “do better than God” and acting as providences for our fellow men so as to be seen as capable and able? The thin line of self deification by our skills.




4. Don’t rock the boat. Finger in the air, sniff out the wind and sail along. “Only live salmon go against the flow of the stream.”

The dynamics of belonging to a group, to be connected, to have an identity that is recognized by our peers cause us to always be aware of what is required in order to maintain our position. When a man is skilled in group dynamic behaviour he will never voice any opinion that is beside the mainstream of the group consensus. Strong individuals acting with little concern for the group hegemony make the group insecure. Group dynamics shout at us: keep in line, don’t upset the apple cart. What does that say about the group as such? And what happens to those who refuse to play tag in the expected manner?

Discuss: How do these patterns show up in the Christian organisation called Church?


5. Brothers in arms, even in the face of the Father. The isms of the world are formed by the fatherless against God.

Let us make for ourselves a name”. At the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 the first expression of the collective disregard for God the Father is seen in the brotherhood of rebellion. “We must make for ourselves a name so that we are not scattered across the face of the Earth.” The command of God was the opposite: multiply and fill the earth. But sin came in and instead of moving Godward the brotherhood moves inward to itself. The primary victims of their collective buddines are women and children. Every ‘ism’ in the world has this brotherhood of man at it’s core and is costing us all dearly. Men without respect and submission for someone greater than themselves are the terror of the earth.

Discuss!

6. Men join clubs today for the same reason they bore clubs in the past: security in number or collective clout.

The nonconformist man poses a threat to his environment. Hence the need to conform to certain interests has proliferated across the world. Millions of different ‘clubbing’ activities suck men into their folds. Safety, imagined or real, is in numbers and each cause behind each club justifies itself by it’s own reasoning. It rarely invites outsider’s opinions about it. Whole religions are created by this inate drive to be part of a mass, separating personal responibility to the group and whatever dynamises, energizes and motivates the group. A study of the fanclubs of Soccer teams gives you lots of food for thought along those lines. But are churches exempt from those snares? Wether political, religious, philosophical or financial, the clubs are the essence of conformity for conformity’s sake.

Discuss: How safe am I in Church, and what am I safe from?

7. Programme, protocol and comittees are the collective armour behind which men like to hide. “If we name it we must tame it.”
Looking at our christian organisations we see that they have one dominant common denominator. Programme and Protocol sustained by various Comittees. PPP is Preacher, Pulpit, Program and those three are maintained and safeguarded by PPC, Programme Protocol and Comittees. If it can be named, it must be tamed. So all activity must have constitutions, meetings, voting, officially appointed functionaries, minutes, book keeping and a thousand other operatives for the organisation to work properly. Incidentally that is entrirely in keeping with the world wround us, and a total compliance with the values and rulings of the leadership of the nation. God does not come into this at all.

But is has virtually no resemblance to what the Word of God describes as the Living body of Christ.

Discuss: Why is it that the Church which is supposed to be the fellowship of those who are free in the Spirit appear so bound in and by the norms of the flesh. Why is it that those who by faith have eternal life are so tied down to the protocols of time? (When the clock strikes 12, the divine service meeting is over. Basta! Now God, we have given you 90 minutes, that is all you get.)


8. By and large men lack an acceptable language for their emotions. Emotive language is seen as female prerogative by many. Nobody wants to appear a sissy..

There used to be this caricature of the true Brittish gentleman. The stiff upper lip. The ramrod straight back. The unclouded eye, the iron self control, the “we stand until we fall”. The man in absolute control of his emotions. Never leaking any personal feeling whilst on duty. Never sharing any real deep personal emotion unless sanctioned by the crowd, and only while in that crowd. “Get a grip on yersel’” is the cry in face of male emotions all too often. Which leads to men simply not sharing things of a deep emtional content, and if they do then the rest of the group does not know what to do about it, or even, often where to fix their gaze in the room where such behaviour is expressed. “Response along the lines of evangelical platitudes or silence.”


I said: there used to be. Is that entirely true? Is it merely a bygone trait of no importance for our self understanding today? Surely modern contemporary man is free from all that and we are dealing with a totally new kind of liberated human. Aye?

The embarrasing thing about Jesus Christ is that he is not ‘British’
(in that sense) in one ounce of his humanity. He is anything but stiff-upper-lipped. This is a man who in every fiber is in tune with his emotion but without any sign of vapid mushiness or abusing his sentimental expressions to make others do what they would not otherwise be cajoled to do. The genuine character of His emotional responses to the real calamity of life in the fallen world is redolent with hints that men of God are no less so if and when they share and show what they truly feel.


The language of emotions is by and large owned by the women among us. Many of them feel that men lack emotions because they do not talk about them. But many men cannot identify their feelings within the framework of female language about them. The truth is more in this area: women talk of their emotions. And they can talk endlessly about these emotions and never want a solution to what causes them. Men express themselves in different ways. Women frequently lack the decoder to understand the message that man is in his very being. If you try to read a book by it’s cover alone you will not profit.

The regaining of a valid emotional language for men, giving them a redeemed expression for their reclaimed soul, and on their own terms seems long over due in my estimate. Seeing the need for it has only taken some 50 plus years for me.
It can be hoped that in future men will be more open with their feelings without fe
ar of being branded ‘sissy’, weak or effeminate. No body would have dared pin those epitets on Jesus Christ.

Discuss: Are emotional responses dangerous and to be avoided? Is enthusiasm the enemy of the faith? Is an emotional appeal enough to bring about repentance and saving faith? Is love a feeling or a chosen attitude leading to agape love in action?



Second: the matter as seen in the Word of God


All scripture is God breathed / inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness. That the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.2 Tim 3:16

Everything written beforetime was written for our instruction, for us, upon whom the end of the ages have come.”

Is it not our aim to be men of God? If it is not then this is where we depart from one another. Anything that follows in this monograph is spoken on the basis of the redemptive work of Christ in men as men. The psychology of redemption is utterly other than the psychology of the unregenerated man. Nothing by either Jung, Adler, Freud, Buber, Fromm or May or any of a thousand other psychiatrists, psychoanalysts or psychologists has any bearing on the redeemed man because the core of man is not his fallen soul, which is what these men have studied, but his reborn Spirit. And without the Spirit of God in man, man is a mere physical shell bound by a diseased soul and destined for an eternal displacement away from his Maker without the essential “Ha Ruach Elohim” (Spirit of God in hebrew). If not born again no man or woman shall see the kingdom of God.

To establish the basis for all that follows we need a close look at 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory;  the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,


Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”


For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,  which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.


And again the witness of Truth

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”


Discuss: how essential is the distinction between those born of the Holy Spirit and common man?


The Plumbline

The prophetic vision of a plumbline and what it accomplishes is seen in the Prophet Amos ch 7:7-9
“Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. The Lord said to me, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

Behold I am about to put a plumb line
In the midst of My people Israel.
I will spare them no longer.
“The high places of Isaac will be desolated
And the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste.
Then I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

If seen in the light of a passage in 2 Corinthians 10:12-17 one can draw a conclusion of great importance for our quest towards christian maleness. The body of common men compete only with themselves comparing themselves only to other men of their own ilk. Their common consent disapproves of any ultimate plumbline for one reason only: all would be seen to be in need of restoration, realignement, deliverance and restoration. The comfort of the brotherhoods excludes any arbiter from the outside of the ’clan’.

I refer to the enormity of the statement made by Pontus Pilate in John 19:5 ”Jesus therefore came out, wearing a crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ”Behold the man!”.. and they shouted, ”crucify, crucify..” Whatever else you do, do not embarrass men by showing them THE MAN. Remove the plumbline and leave us to selfadjust within the framework of our selfindulgent sinfulness. But do not, repeat, do not put HIM in our midst to be the plumbline of what it is His salvation is meant to do with us.

Paul hints fairly solidly at the core issue: only using other men as a template is rather inward looking and frighteningly blinding complacency: ”For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ;  not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord.  For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.”|

When the men’s breakfast started it was precisely on the strength of showing us the plumbline of Whom God has put among us, to see him who is the arbiter of our own waywardness, showing up our deviation from God’s plumbline, which was the impetus for the regular meetings. But merely seeing that would be most miserable, since we could not find it in ourselves to change ourselves. Glory be to God, He ”The Man” is also the Rectifyer of every ”Hamartolos”, (Greek for misser of the mark, being a sinner) That missing of the mark which is our heritage from father Adam. As long as we keep Christ outside the fellowship there will be no plumbline to show us our wretchedness, and neither will there be a need for salvation.

But once you see the plumbline..


For a further discussion of these matters I refer here to my book ”Adam there is a glitch in your figleaf”. Available only as a PDF file at the present time.



Teddy Donobauer Sept 15 2020

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