In the 14th century, the “Black Death” broke out and spread through Europe with a fierce vengeance, killing up to 200 million people by some estimates. Shockingly, this would constitute as much as 60 percent of Europe’s total population. Isn’t that staggering? So much so that over 600 years later, the moniker Black Death rings in our ears the call of devastation of a scope we can’t begin to fathom. What’s more, the direct impact – death in unimaginable numbers – of the plague wasn’t the only tragedy, but on top of all that horrific loss of life was layered the human-induced collateral damage of religious, economic and social disturbances which added mortal insult to fatal injury. It was perhaps the worst pandemic in all of human history.
There is a perhaps lesser-known pandemic that is running rampant through the US and no doubt even more broadly worldwide. Like the Black Death, it is destroying life with mind-boggling numbers. Like the Black Death, it’s ushering in a collateral damage of incalculable effect, eating away at the very fabric of society like a cancer. This plague has the capacity to destroy our world in far more likely and extreme ways than so-called global warming. The plague is the abandonment of men from their God-given role as men … living like men and leading like men. In all seriousness I submit that this plague will destroy families, neighborhoods, and societies before our eyes if a remedy isn’t applied.
This reality was triggered this past week as I read through 2 Corinthians 7 – 13 and Galatians 1 – 6. When I read Galatians 5:13- 15 and 19-21, it impressed upon me the root cause of this ever-threatening plague.
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
Can you see the way the Bible warns of the causes of the plague? Granted, Paul is speaking of different specific issues surrounding the Galatian church, but when I read through this, I couldn’t help be struck with how it listed some of the destruction wrought on families, wives, kids, communities, etc., as men in our society shirk their roles for selfish and injurious motives. See the words? Loveless, cheap sex. Joyless grabs for happiness. Trinket gods. Divided homes and divided lives. The list goes on and on. One would think that it’s a recent catalog of the moral failures of men in our day but to think it was written almost 2,000 years ago is telling. These were issues then, but they’re the plague of our day now and the incremental damage is horrific.
Let me explain by way of one indicative encounter among many … last week I had breakfast with a dear friend. It had been several months since we caught up and he lives outside California, so we get only infrequent opportunities to connect in person. So it was with great anticipation that I drove up near Orange County airport to meet over breakfast. Besides, I don’t get to have an omelet very often and I went for a run that morning and looked forward to rewarding myself.
Though I’ve known him for years, he shared with me challenges he’s had since day one of his twenty-five-year marriage. Those challenges stem from his wife’s background of having dad who abandoned the family, someone who chose to pursue many of the behaviors listed in the Galatians passage, which in turn understandably injured my friend’s mom-in-law, who then raised her daughters (my friend’s wife among them) to resist connection with men, to avoid being hurt or abandoned, to instead be protective and disconnected from men, to smile and agree on relational matters and parental style decisions for the purpose of peace in the face-to-face but by all means never to let anyone have control over her choices. The mutilation of their marriage is the unfortunate outgrowth, their kids have been subjected to an unhealthy relationship and a distorted model of marriage, which they will likely carry with them to theirs. Unless someone breaks the chain of unhealthiness then, inevitably generations will continue to be damaged. The plague will claim its victims, and then some. But there’s a treatment that can cure the plague and potentially reverse the possible downstream destruction.
Men need to lead like men. There’s a God-defined role we are called to, one of provision and protection of our wives and our kids. Of keeping our word as our bond, and of facing up to difficulties and challenges and fight on behalf of our loved ones. Of tenacity in the face of difficulties and resilience despite the odds. Of maintaining a bedrock of faith and serving “the least of these” and of loving our neighbor. When men abandon their post, it’s no different than a sentry asked to guard a fortress doing so … the entire population within is subject to demise, and we see it happen every day.
Men … be MEN!
Our society doesn’t like those types of statements today because they’re said to have a derogatory tone toward women. Quite the opposite, actually. If men were men, women could be women, and our society would operate as intended … not perfectly, mind you. Just as designed. Neither men nor women would be devalued. Exactly contrary … both would maximize and optimize their value.
Do I place all the blame on men? If you’re a husband and a dad and you don’t do your job as those, then yes, yes I do. Because when men abandon, pursue cheap, empty sex through adultery, value status over stability in their home, pursue monetary rather than eternal rewards, etc., the plague is unleashed and society as a whole suffers. Look at the inner city, and you’ll see the fruit of men copping out and checking out, and deserting their wives, children, and communities. Whole neighborhoods are crumbling before our eyes.
How can men finally be men? Look at the Man who set the ultimate standard. Jesus. He didn’t pursue short-term, self-centered gain … He sacrificed and surrendered what was otherwise due Him on behalf of those He loved. Us. And by the way … men … we’re instructed to love our wives in the same way. Our children would reap the rewards. Robert Lewis says in his book, “Raising a Modern Day Knight,” that an authentic man 1) resists passivity, 2) accepts responsibility, 3) leads courageously, and 4) expects the greater (long-term, eternal) reward. It really is that simple.
For the women and children left in turmoil … there is also a similar treatment. Once again, Jesus. Even though there are so many men out there who have abandoned their posts, chosen the cheap and selfish way, there is a Father Who didn’t and Who doesn’t and Who won’t. Jesus says in Matthew 28 (NLT), “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
When men don’t act like and lead like men … the burden is dumped on the wives and children that are left in the aftermath. The plague claims its victims … in inestimable proportions. The plague to end all plagues is running rampant.
Men … will you reverse its course?
Soli Deo gloria!